A PROPOSAL to build a 55-home estate on a hill overlooking the historic town and castle where Richard III learnt knighthood skills has been approved as the scheme will feature a large proportion of affordable housing.

Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee heard the site on 2.9 hectares of grazing land on the north-western edge of Middleham would include 40 per cent affordable housing, which officers said was a figure “pretty much unheard of in Lower Wensleydale”.

Following mounting concerns over the amount of affordable housing available and maintaining pupil numbers at small rural schools in Richmondshire, councillors said they agreed with Middleham Town Council that the proposal would on balance generate a boost for the community.

Councillor Ian Threlfall said: “I think the affordable housing 40 per cent in Middleham where there are a lot of young single people working is very significant and welcome.”

Officers told the meeting Historic England had expressed concerns over the plan on heritage grounds and considered it “essential” that the housing scheme should maximise opportunities to “tie it into the existing cultural landscape”.

They said a small part of the application site was within the town’s Conservation Area, which features the scheduled monument of Middleham Castle and numerous 16th century buildings. Officers said consideration had to be given to the impact of the proposed development on the setting of the historic assets.

Planning agent Gary Hoerty told the meeting he believed the scheme would “take the town into the future in a very positive way”.

He added: “The proposed development would provide many benefits. They include up to 55 houses, much-needed affordable housing, benefits to the services in the town, including the school which is under-subscribed, improvements to existing play areas and provision of informal open space.”

The meeting was told the estate would play a “seamless part in the historical evolution of Middleham”.