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Enforcement: Mock medieval castle deemed ‘obtrusive’ by inspector

Words: Laura Edgar
The Forbidden Corner / Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

A ‘mock’ castle located in a national park must be demolished because it is ‘obtrusive’ and cannot be considered as a heritage building, with the harm to the landscape outweighing the economic benefits, an inspector has ruled.

Described by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) as a “mock medieval castle”, the building in question is located at the Forbidden Corner, Tupgill, in Richmondshire.

Initially created as a private folly garden within the garden area to the west of Tupgill House at Tupgill Park, it remains a private residence but courtyard buildings are used commercially in association with the folly garden as a tourist destination.

Inspector Anthony J Wharton noted that the building has three recognisable elements - the gatehouse tower, the spiral staircase and the rectangular tower.

The enforcement notice was issued because the YDNPA was concerned about the effect the building has on the landscape, and that it “differs significantly” from other historic structures in the area. Further, the building extends too high (between six and nine metres) above the adjoining structure known as ‘the Long Walk” (a paved level walking surface across the full width of the garden).

The appellant was asked to reduce the height of the building so that it is no more than three metres above the Long Walk. The appeal proceeded on the grounds that planning permission should be granted for the building in question (a); the steps required to comply with the enforcement notice are excessive (f); and that the time given to comply with the notice is too short (three months) (g).

The inspector noted that the building can be seen from public viewpoints, while the park authority said it correctly applied the Sandford Principle* in determining what action to take.

It is not accepted that the park authority failed to quantify the harm in the enforcement notice or give adequate consideration to the landscape and the impact of the appeal building, the report states. Citing a planning committee report, it notes that the park authority made a clear distinction between the fact the majority of the folly garden features are contained within the walled area while the appeal building is “prominently” located on the Long Walk.

The appellant argued that the Forbidden Corner contributes positively to the cultural heritage, “special” qualities of the national park and its economy. It is contended that the national park authority has “misunderstood” the function and relevance of the appeal building to the Forbidden Corner as a whole.

For the appellant, “the tower does not adversely affect the local landscape character and adds positively to the diversity quality and local distinctiveness of the cultural landscape”.

Wharton said the appeal building cannot be considered part of the cultural heritage of the park, and “it is certainly not a heritage building”. He doesn’t consider it to affect the cultural heritage significance of the distant historic buildings, but said that the Long Walk itself appears as a major noticeable built form and the appeal building is "clearly" a structure that is noticeable and, “in my view, obtrusive, when seen in the context of the pastureland to the west of the house”.

The inspector added that the plastic ivy does to some extent soften the appearance of the building but does nothing to reduce its appearance in terms of scale, bulk and height.

Wharton said he took into consideration relevant policies in the NPPF and the adopted Yorkshire Dales Local Plan - 2015-2030, and the Sandford Principle when making his decision. In conclusion, the enforcement appeal failed on grounds (a) and (f). Wharton however said that the three-month compliance period was too short, and extended it to nine months.

Jim Munday, member champion for development management at the YDNPA, said: “Throughout this process we have always made clear that we recognise and celebrate the success of the Forbidden Corner as a tourist attraction and an important employer within the national park. The enforcement action does not seek to harm the business, but to remedy a breach of planning control that significantly harms the cultural heritage and landscape quality of this part of the national park.  

“The completed building is a large mock medieval castle which provides a commanding viewpoint over Coverdale and part of lower Wensleydale. It is located outside the walled folly garden of the Forbidden Corner, so it is not only separate from all the other follies, but is in open view.”

* The Sandford Principle means that if there is a conflict between the park authority’s duties to both conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the park, and foster the economic and social well-being of local communities, greater weight must be attached to conserving and enhancing natural beauty.

The inspector’s report – case reference 3184643 – can be read here.

Image credit | Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority