PLANS to create holiday accommodation with kennels and a gym next to the 'nationally significant' Hellifield Peel - a former star of television's Grand Designs - have been rejected by a government planning inspector.

Owners of the former outbuildings of Peel tower, Wellock Property, lodged an appeal after Craven District Council refused permission for their part demolition and conversion to group holiday accommodation in September, 2020.

Councillors acting against officer advice, unanimously rejected the scheme,which included a four bedroom cottage, glasshouse and a new, two storey building to house kennels on the ground floor and a gym, accessed by external stairs, on the upper floor, together with parking.

At the time, councillors, who had been told it was a 'finely-balanced' decision, believed the proposed development would harm the complex of buildings, including the Peel, it being an inappropriate size for the site, and rejected both planning permission and listed building consent.

Those decisions have now been upheld by a government planning inspector on the grounds of the proposed development's impact on the grade two listed Peel, which is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument, dating back to the 14th century. The inspector also turned down Wellock's application for costs against the council, which it claimed had acted unreasonably, and had made 'vague or inaccurate assertions' about the proposal’s impact.

In his decision notice, the inspector, John Dowsett, who visited the site in July last year, said: "The proposal would cause harm to the special historic interest and setting of the Grade II listed building and the setting of the Scheduled Ancient Monument. There are no material considerations that indicate the decision should be made other than in accordance with the development plan. Therefore, for the reasons given, I conclude that the appeals should be dismissed."

As to the costs application, Mr Dowsett said councillors were not obliged to accept the recommendation of their planning officers and found no grounds for unreasonable behaviour.

Owners of Hellifield Peel, Francis, and Karen Shaw, spent three years and £800,000 restoring the structure, after buying what was at the time little more than a ruin, in 2004. It went on to feature in television's Grand Designs in 2007 and again in 2009 and was one of presenter, Kevin McCloud's favourite projects.

Mr Shaw, who is an architect, said they have never objected to holiday accommodation, but that the current proposals were too large for the area.

He said: "The appeal officer does not exclude the impact of group accommodation upon private residences. We have never objected to residential or holiday accommodation but the proposal was for a very substantial development, which was not in character with the small residential enclave and the impact created too greater harm upon the listed buildings and scheduled monument.

"We have tried to reach a compromise with the applicants and planning officers. Fortunately the planning committee unanimously refused this application and their decision has been ratified by the appeal officer.

"I hope that we can work with the applicant to achieve a sensitive scheme that would be a positive contribution to this nationally important monument."

At the planning committee meeting last year, councillors were told by Rural Solutions, agents for the applicants, that owners of the granary buildings, Jo and James Wellock, were local residents who were investing in the area.

They were interested in providing high quality accommodation and reviving community facilities, such as the Angel at Hetton, and were passionate about using local people to carry out the work and to work for them. The proposed development, it was claimed, would allow the Peel and its setting to be appreciated by a wider audience.

But, committee members, together with Hellifield Parish Council, the ward councillor and nearby residents, said the development was far too big and described it as a 'Trojan Horse, which would gradually morph into something much larger - a claim firmly denied by the Wellock's agent.

Fiona Tiplady, associate director planning, Rural Solutions, agents for Wellock Property, said: “We are disappointed that the appeal for this high quality four-bedroom holiday cottage has been dismissed after the applications were recommended for approval by the planners but we will review the decision and address the matters which are raised in this ‘on balanced’ decision.

“At Rural Solutions, our focus has always been on careful development and diversification to protect and enhance the heritage and vibrancy of rural places, bringing old buildings back into appropriate reuse while also stimulating the rural economy and local communities.

“Like many similar projects we have worked on, the conversion of these historic buildings will provide employment in the area, both to carry out the work and to run it as a holiday let. It will attract tourism spend in the locality and share the heritage setting with a wider audience.”