A holiday park near an ancient abbey in Yorkshire has been approved by councillors

Esby Abbey near Richmond. (Image credit: Bruce Rawlinson)

Leisure Park Ltd told a meeting of North Yorkshire Council that its proposal to build 12 holiday lodges near the Easby Conservation Area and its abbey, one of the best preserved in the white Premonstratensian canons, reflected residents’ concerns about the development.

Councilors agreed that the development principle had been drawn up following two previous proposals to launch a holiday lodge on the site of pastoral farmland near Richmond, both of which were rejected by Richmondshire County Council before being approved by the Government Planning Inspector on appeal.

The family-run company behind the latest “downsizing” proposal reflects residents’ concerns, with the size of the holiday lodge site being significantly reduced to two acres, the developer’s agent told the meeting. He added that the Esby Park proposal was in line with local and national planning policy.

The meeting heard that more than 5,300 additional trees and shrubs would be planted to create wildlife habitat, screening the development well, and that the holiday park would lead to a slight increase in traffic.

“Esby Park respects the character and appearance of the area,” the agent said.

The meeting was told while the council’s highways officers had raised no objections to the development, North Yorkshire Police’s traffic safety expert said the increase in the number of vehicles on the route “can only lead to additional pressure on the junctions at both ends”, and that no Both of them can be easily improved.

The proposal has also sparked opposition with more than 900 signatures in an online petition as well as 132 letters to the council from residents, of which 130 objected to the development, claiming it “discredits this unique feature”.

Residents said that the rural setting was “crucial” to Esby Abbey’s place and that the construction of the cabins would “break the frame of this astonishing picture and seriously affect the agricultural character of the hamlet”.

Espy resident John Clarke told the committee nothing had changed at the site in the 14 years since councilors overwhelmingly agreed the log cabins would show “strange features in this quaint stone setting.”

He stressed how police had concluded if the development was approved “the public would not be safe” on the Esby single-lane route and questioned claims that an overflow could be created.

Graham Berry, of Esby Parish Meeting, said council planning policies only supported tourism initiatives if they met criteria such as contributing to the social and economic needs of the area.

He said there were already at least eight other holiday lodge type sites in the local area, adding: “Nowhere has the proliferation of these sites around Richmond, which meets the demand for this type of holiday accommodation, been taken into account.

“The site will create a new village of privately owned log cabins that is completely out of keeping with the historic landscape in which they are located,” Mr Perry said.

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