Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority officers said while there is “clearly a compelling argument for an onsite, overnight presence” for Bainbridge Vets in Askrigg, the move did not justify contravening policies designed to protect the park’s landscapes and communities.
The recommendation comes ahead of the authority’s planning committee of elected community representatives and Government appointees examining a proposal by vets Davinia Hinde and Michael Woodhouse to repurpose the traditional stone building beside their surgery.
The proposed building was used by the Wensleydale Railway in Askrigg before the line closed in 1964, and Bainbridge Vets, which employs 13 people, has said it wants use the premises to facilitate the “overnight supervision of hospitalised animals”.
Papers submitted with the application state the vets want to continue the tradition of 24/7 veterinary care portayed in the popular TV series while living with their young family, as James Herriot author Alf Wight did at a veterinary practice in Thirsk.
It is seven years since Bainbridge Vets moved into the former railway station, with Rishi Sunak praising the couple’s ambition in taking on the site and heralding their service “a most impressive operation”.
Planning documents state the surgery’s small animal and equine work had increased significantly, meaning more hospitalised animals and that the vets made up to 20 journeys through Askrigg over a weekend to support the practice and to check on animals.
However, planning officers said the vets’ need to be on site could “easily be met by more modest overnight accommodation, even a bed-sit type staff room” and a large, detached four-bedroom house was not justified.
They said housing was available in both Askrigg and nearby villages.
An officer’s report to the committee states: “The building itself, although requiring some investment, is large enough to provide viable space for a wide range of small to medium sized businesses, with good access, parking
and delivery space.
“The area does not have a surplus of such units and converting this
building to a large dwelling would lose the opportunity for a business to locate in Askrigg, potentially employing locally and contributing to the local economy.”
The report adds creating a domestic property on the site could impact on neighbouring firms, including a coal yard and a brewery, undermining the future development of businesses on the site.
Officers have concluded the proposal would conflict with the strategic aim of the Yorkshire Dales Local Plan to support the development of land and buildings for business uses and a policy barring residential developments on allocated business sites.