FOOT and mouth was again used as a reason to go against planning policy after an application to convert a barn in Burnsall was approved this week.

Planning officers for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority had recommended refusal of the application submitted by Jeremy Daggett for the conversion of Calgarth Laithe to form bunk barn accommodation.

The reasons were cited as "unacceptable sporadic development in open countryside and would harm its character" and "reasons of nuisance and incompatibility with the existing sewage treatment plant use on the adjacent site".

A previous application to convert the barn into 32-bed bunk accommodation was refused in March last year because the plans went against planning policy.

But members of the committee took pity on the farming family who had lost all their stock in a foot and mouth cull.

Mr Daggett told the meeting that his family had suffered during the foot and mouth crisis with approximately 150 dairy cattle and 600 sheep being culled.

"We have been farming here since 1928 and are proud of our agricultural achievements. We are now looking for some outside income as the farm has to support three farming families."

Mr Daggett said that because of falling agricultural subsidies, success of the application would not only benefit themselves by providing a necessary income, but would provide local employment and enhance the future of the national park.

Coun Cecil Hammond supported the plan and suggested the barn's situation away from nearby property was beneficial.

"It is far enough away out of the village not to be a nuisance if there were some rowdy youths staying there," he said.

Coun James Kendal added that there was more need now for this type of development with youth hostels across the country closing.

And Coun Harold Brown added: "Farming was difficult before foot and mouth but it is much more difficult now. This farm is fortunate that it can diversify into something."

However, the barn's close proximity to a sewage plant caused some concern.

Deborah Millward said: "This treatment plant is very close to the property and I am concerned that people who will be preparing food at this facility may not be very careful and not do themselves any favours.

Coun Roger Harrison-Topham added: "If there were food poisoning incidents at the facility, it might be possible that environmental health officers may have the powers to close it down."

Nancy Steadman added her concerns that the national park was even considering such applications for development in open countryside.

"It could lead to creeping development across the whole of the park; that is why we have planning policies to protect it," she said.

Jerry Pearlman said that although he sympathised with the farmers he reminded fellow members that they were looking at a planning agenda.

"We sit here on a planning committee, not an environmental development committee, therefore, we have to apply planning principles. It is planning within rules.

"As much as one has sympathy for farmers who have suffered through foot and mouth, it does not drive me to override the policy. Our officer has recommended this application be refused and it would be wrong to go against it. Planning rules must be observed," he said.

The plans were supported after a majority vote.