Harrogate farmer speaks out against approach of local Planning Department

A farmer who has lost his Court battle to build a much-needed agricultural building on land on Meagill Lane, Blubberhouses after eight years of fighting against the Planning Department of Harrogate Borough Council has spoken out.

Mr Geoffrey Crossland and his wife Mrs Ann Crossland purchased 115 acres of pasture and relatively rough upland grazing land from the Ministry of Defence in 2003.



Mr Crossland said:

The land was no longer required by the Ministry for use as an antenna field and the numerous tall antennae were felled prior to the purchase.

Our intention was to return the land to agricultural use with a sheep farm.

We needed a building to breed and look after the sheep particularly taking into account its exposed position. Perhaps ironically, the land originally had a number of farm buildings but they have since been converted to residential use following planning permission having been granted for this purpose.

However, although the they made as many as seven applications to exercise a statutory right to construct an agricultural building they were refused by the Council on each occasion. Mr Crossland changed the specification of the application on each application to try and meet the Council’s requirements.

Mr Crossland said:

What I found even more surprising was that so many objections were made by the Council even though the land itself looks out over the Forest Moor Radio Communications complex, the Menwith Hill RAF ‘golf balls’ and also the local wind farms.

I would hope that most people would agree that a farmed landscape is better than an antenna field. It is the income from farming which ensures that the stone walls are rebuilt, the hedges are cut and make the AONB so attractive but without a building the land cannot be maintained as it should be for farming.

 



Jonathan Mortimer, Head of Dispute Resolution at Raworths Solicitors who took up the case on behalf of Mr and Mrs Crossland said:

The planning laws in respect of agricultural development differ from other planning permission applications in that there is a statutory right to build a property as long as it is reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture.

The only role of the Council should be to indicate within a defined period after the application is made whether they wish to be involved in the design and placement of the building.

For reasons which only the Council can explain, they have been unusually un-cooperative with Mr and Mrs Crossland for many years and in my view failed to exercise their responsibilities in accordance with the law.

 

Mr Crossland said:

In my view, what the Planning Department of Harrogate Council has done is consistently and unreasonably to disagree with the details of any proposed building and thereby undermine completely the statutory right for an agricultural building to the disadvantage of those of us who wish to create a farming business in the locality.

Matters came to ahead in the spring of 2012 when Mr and Mrs Crossland started to build a barn for their sheep farm in accordance with what they believed to be deemed planning permission which they had obtained as a result of an earlier application. The Council in response issued proceedings in the High Court in April 2012 seeking (amongst other matters) an injunction requiring the building which Mr and Mrs Crossland had started to build to be demolished.

Mr Crossland said:

Having spent in excess of £100,000 building the barn we were horrified at the Council’s stance. We were also faced with a further bill of £40,000 just to demolish the building.

I had hoped that we would win our case but we have to accept the Judge’s decision.

 

Jonathan Mortimer says:

We tried to negotiate with the Council for many months to see whether a way forward could be agreed that would not require the building to be demolished. We effectively said to the Council just tell us what you want us to do to the building to meet your requirements and we will do it.

However, the Council were not prepared to move from their position that the entirety of the building had to be demolished. It is all credit to Mr and Mrs Crossland that they were brave enough to take the Council all the way to the Court and stand by their rights.

A trial took place on 1 and 2nd of November 2012 in the Leeds District Registry of the High Court and Judge Coulson ruled that Mr and Mrs Crossland had not obtained deemed planning permission for an agricultural building and it would need to be demolished.

Mr Crossland says:

I do believe that the Planning Department of Harrogate Borough Council does have an inflexible approach to the changing needs of its local inhabitants, businesses and farmers like myself.

I accept that we could have approached matters better with the benefit of hindsight.

However, the outcome will not deflect me from exercising our statutory rights to erect an agricultural building.

 


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