Green light for Dales Pony tourism scheme
A TOURISM development aiming to promote the history of the Dales Pony breed has been given the green light.
Earlier this year, Durham County Council received a planning application to redevelop land off Lartington Lane, Lartington.
This included erecting a timber cabin to host pony training events, new self-catering holiday accommodation and a field shelter.
According to planning documents, the development would serve as a visitor attraction with events, demonstrations and stud visits helping to “promote the Dales Pony and its native origins”.
The centre also aims to “assist in the understanding and preservation” of the breed.
After being submitted earlier this year, the application sparked fears about the impact on neighbouring ancient woodland.
Lartington Parish Council objected to the plans alongside the council’s own landscape officer who raised concerns about the “adverse impact” on the area of high landscape value.
In July, there was also a mixed reaction when the plans were brought before Durham County Council’s south and west durham planning committee for decision.
Some councillors noted the benefits of rural tourism, while others raised fears about the impact on the landscape.
Despite a recommendation to refuse the application, councillors deferred the plans to allow time for champion pony breeders David and Alison Eccles to address the
issues. Changes included repositioning and reducing the height of the field shelter to provide a “courtyard effect” – which would screen the chalet building and car parking/hardstanding area.
Other biodiversity measures were also proposed including reduced lighting levels, providing a new native hedgerow and using eco-friendly materials for the new buildings. Several councillors spoke in support of the development at this month’s area planning committee, which was held via videolink and broadcast on the council’s YouTube channel.
Planning officials concluded that the impact on the landscape had been reduced from that previously proposed.
Cllr John Shuttleworth said:“I think in these uncertain times anything that’s going to create any form of employment anywhere we should support.”
Cllr Jan Blakey added: “The way that tourism is going we’re going to need every penny we can get in this area.”
While welcoming the changes to the scheme, Cllr Fraser Tinsley said the predicted economic benefits had “not been quantified and were based on assumptions.”
He also raised concerns about the chalet becoming a “second home” and asked if conditions were available to restrict the use to certain times of the year.
Planning officers, responding, stated existing conditions around holiday use were acceptable and would “restrict somebody living there.”
Following discussion, the plans were approved by a vote of 11-1 with Cllr Tinsley voting against.
The applicants are currently in the process of applying for grant funding to develop their business further, the meeting heard.