GOVERNMENT proposals to relax planning rules in national parks could -if approved -mean the end of the Yorkshire Dales as a protected landscape, says North Yorkshire's housing boss.

While the Government has claimed allowing the conversion of barns, offices and cafes in national parks without planning approval would help boost the supply of housing, Councillor Simon Myers said potential changes outlined for the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill would not resolve any of North Yorkshire’s housing issues.

Cllr Myers (Con/Ind) Mid-Craven) said the authority would consider inviting one of the Government ministers behind the proposed legislation to visit North Yorkshire to view the impact granting permitted development rights on barns would have on areas such as Swaledale.

The criticism from Conservative-run North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for housing and leisure follows an equally condemnatory reaction from the leaders of the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales national park authorities.

The Government is consulting on its plans to remove red tape around converting empty offices, agricultural buildings and retail premises, as well as make it easier to extend commercial buildings and provide more certainty over some types of development.

Government officials have stated they would only drop the proposals if “watertight” reasons not to require planning permission emerged.

In letters raising objections to the proposals, residents and parish councils said the Government was not thinking about impacts on the wider public and claimed both national parks “will be damaged beyond repair and for ever if this comes into force”.

Following a meeting of Grosmont Parish Council, the clerk wrote: “It was felt it is ridiculous to even consider such permitted development when the consequences could be huge.”

Cllr Myers said the potential legislative changes were “not thinking about what the purpose of the protected landscape is as the Yorkshire Dales was about field barns”.

He said while he supported the current Yorkshire Dales policy allowing barn conversions that were close to roads, some made the area “look like Toytown”.

While the Government has stated the legislation is aimed at kick starting an increase in housing supply, Cllr Myers questioned whether the legislation would do anything to ease the county’s housing crisis, and in particular to boost affordable housing.

Referring to the proposal to allow barns to be converted into homes, Cllr Myers said: “It isn’t just some little field barn that is suddenly lived in.

“It’s the hardstanding, it’s all the hard wiring that has to go in. It’s cars parked outside and all the infrastructure. It doesn’t meet any affordable housing requirements, it doesn’t fulfil any need that we have.

“It would be really detrimental. You may as well say we give up protected landscapes.”