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New lease of life for Dales barns

[Friday 20 February 2009]
Yorkshire Bales barn
Yorkshire Dales barn

AN experimental project that could eventually help to bring disused barns back to life in the Yorkshire Dales has been given the go-ahead by the National Park Authority (YDNPA).

Members of the Authority’s Planning Committee have approved the temporary use of a free-standing ‘eco-pod’ inside an isolated barn on the Bolton Abbey estate near Skipton.

For the next year, it will be occupied occasionally by experts from Bath-based architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS) who will be testing its viability as a place to stay or work.

And, if it is successful, it could mark the beginning of a new era for some of the thousands of dilapidated barns in the National Park, according to Gary Smith, the YDNPA’s Head of Conservation and Policy.

“Barns are one of the National Park’s special qualities and, with around 2,000 now in ‘poor’ or ‘very bad’ condition, it is becoming imperative that we find ways of stopping them from deteriorating any further,” he said.

“To that end, the YDNPA, working together with FCBS, has secured funding from Yorkshire Forward for a feasibility study to assess the economic viability of using ‘pods’ to restore and then maintain other traditional barns. The project has the long-term potential to provide very significant economic and environmental benefits within the Dales by conserving and bringing back into use buildings that might be difficult or impossible to rejuvenate by ‘traditional’ conversion methods.”

The Authority’s conservation experts and FCBS staff will monitor the condition and impact of the temporary ‘pod’ and find out just how practical it is as a place to stay or work.

Peter Watson, the YDNPA’s Head of Planning, said: “The beauty of installing a free-standing pod is that it has no material impact on the internal fabric of the barn, and could – at any time – be removed to leave the barn exactly as it was.

any means of making them useable and retaining them in the landscape is very welcome

Ben Heyes - Bolton Abbey Estate

“Apart from making the outside of the building weatherproof – which is vitally important to its conservation – there are no material alterations to the external appearance. That means there is no detrimental impact on the surrounding, sensitive landscape.”

Additional funding for the project has come from the YDNPA’s Sustainable Development Fund, which is managed by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

A spokesman for FCBS said: ““We’re delighted to be working with the Bolton Abbey Estate and the YDNPA to develop a sustainable conservation solution to safeguard the future of field barns in the Yorkshire Dales. Obtaining planning consent for the test build is an important first step in a project that seeks to ensure the survival of these vulnerable historic buildings as important heritage and landscape assets.”

Ben Heyes, the agent for the Bolton Abbey estate, which owns the barn, said: “We are very supportive of this initiative. We have 80 outlying barns on the estate and they are a problem we have been wrestling with for some time – so any means of making them useable and retaining them in the landscape is very welcome.”

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