EMOTIONS ran high at a packed-out planning meeting which saw councillors approve plans to allow the historic Newby Wiske Hall to be turned into children's activity centre.

Cries of frustration and comments of “disgrace” and “disgusting” greeted the decision made in favour of PGL by Hambleton District Council’s planning committee on Thursday.

In a break with usual protocol, the morning meeting was held at the Solberge Hall Hotel to enable more members of the public to attend.

The extra capacity was certainly needed as 150-plus people arrived to witness the process which began with a 45-minute-long presentation of the plans.

These include an extension to the lake to enable children to take part in rafting, kayaking and canoeing, an outdoor games area with climbing walls and rope courses and alterations to the Grade II listed property.

Objectors to the scheme say that the additional noise and coach traffic generated by the centre would have an unacceptable impact on residents’ lives.

Noise was a theme throughout the meeting and a recording was played to the committee of children using a giant swing at an existing PGL centre.

The children’s recorded screams of delight were greeted by murmurs of dissent from the public at the meeting.

Speaking on behalf of the local parish councils, town planner Richard Clark said that Newby Wiske Hall was the central focus of the village as a conservation area.

He said that the centre would have a “significant impact” on the quality of life of nearby residents and urged the council to reject the application and consider more suitable proposals for the site.

Traffic was also an issue for objectors, with concerns raised over the ability of the surrounding rural roads to cope with up to 40 coaches a day at peak times being called into question.

PGL’s operations director Richard Sanders pointed out the benefits that the centre would bring to the area.

He said that it represented “a great opportunity” for North Yorkshire youngsters to experience the excitement of the activities and that the complex would create around 100 new jobs.

Mr Sanders said that PGL had 25 sites across the UK and always worked hard to ensure that it was a good neighbour.

Cllr Brian Phillips said that he could not support the application and he was the first councillor to recommend its refusal due to the effect it will have on residents’ lives.

His proposal was echoed by several other councillors.

An officers’ report to the committee stated that 221 objections were lodged against the plans, with seven submissions in support.

Environmental Health officers noted concerns over the possible noise disturbance to nearby residents and suggested a Noise Management Plan should be made a condition of planning approval.

However the Environmental Health officers' report conceded that the absence of the multi-use pitches and camping area from the scheme and the re-positioning of the sports area further from the nearest houses were positive changes in terms of noise from the development impacting on residents.

The Highway Authority said it was satisfied the proposals would raise no highway safety issues, but suggested a number of planning conditions.

Newby Wiske Hall had been the home to North Yorkshire Police for some 40 years but the region's Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, first pledged to move the force from the stately home in 2012.

When the sale was announced in March she said she ‘warmly welcomed’ PGL to the site, adding: “We had quite a few offers on the hall and after careful consideration I have chosen a buyer who will work sympathetically with the building, have minimal impact on the environment and, I believe, be a very good neighbour.”