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Investors needed for barn conservation project

[Wednesday 28 July 2010]

Businesses, individuals and charities are being headhunted to support a unique project to restore and conserve some of the thousands of dilapidated field barns in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

And a special exhibition is being staged next month to drum up support for the Feildbarn eco-pod project from the private and voluntary sectors.

The move follows a pilot scheme last year that involved erecting a free-standing eco-pod inside a derelict barn on the Bolton Abbey estate near Skipton.

Bath-based architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS) then tested its viability as a place to stay or work.

The result was an overwhelming success, and now the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) is sponsoring an exhibition throughout August on the estate to attract investment to the scheme.

Stuart Parsons, the YDNPA’s Member Champion for Cultural Heritage, said it was vital to find ways of conserving the 2,000 plus barns in the National Park that were in a ‘poor’ or ‘very bad’ condition.

“Barns are one of the National Park’s special qualities and it is becoming imperative that we find ways of stopping them from deteriorating any further,” he said.

“The eco-pod project has the long-term potential to provide 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 beauty of installing a free-standing pod is that it has no material impact on the internal fabric of the barn, and can be removed at any time, leaving the barn exactly as it was.

“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.

“What the exhibition aims to do is to show private investors the potential returns they could reap by being part of this project.

FCBS project manager Clare Hughes said: “The eco-pod idea came from our studio’s personal attachment to the area and we are really keen to see as many of these old barns reused as possible. Each one is important in the landscape and together they have the potential to make a huge difference to the rural economy.

“Field barns are assets locked into a cycle of decline but the eco-pod unlocks the buildings’ potential for all sorts of uses and for all sorts of people to have access to the countryside.

“They will make great workspaces, holiday accommodation or company retreats. People can simply buy a lease and, in return, they will have the sole right to use their eco-pod whenever they wish. It’s a not-for-profit scheme so there are no share-holders to please or sales targets to reach. We just think that every barn saved is one less headache for the farmer and one more boost to the local economy.

“This scheme has the potential to bring rural regeneration all over the UK and we are even talking to some people in Bosnia.”

Ben Heyes, the estate manager for the Bolton Abbey estate said: “The estate has a significant numbers of barns within its boundaries, common with the rest of the Dales, and we are delighted to be working with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority in the concept and delivery of the barn pod. It is incumbent upon us all to find new economic use for these empty barns and this is an innovative and original use which the estate is pleased to be able to support.”

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