AN extensive estate which is thought to have launched the Yorkshire Dales' first renewable electricity scheme in 1893 has been given consent for another environmental project, despite objections from almost 1,000 residents.

A meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority's planning committee heard the Ingleborough Estate needed to create a timber wagon turning and timber stacking area off Thwaite Lane, near Clapham, to prevent woodlands in the area collapsing from a lack of maintenance.

An estate spokesman told the meeting at Grassington Town Hall the lane was an existing and historic woodland haulage route and alternative routes were either unworkable or economically not viable.

He said the majority of the estate's woodland had been neglected for decades and the Forestry Commission had backed the plan, which would see thinning of trees to counter ash dieback and phytophthora ramoram, another highly infectious disease.

The estate spokesman said: "Without track maintenance these woodlands cannot sustainably be managed.

"Without planning consent the woodlands will collapse."

However, the meeting heard "local feelings are running very high" over the plan, and an online petition set up by residents on Sunday had reached 967 signatures.

The committee was told while the proposed route of the HGVs from the stacking area was 2.5 miles long, half of that was along the popular Pennine Bridleway and the other half on narrow village lanes with few footpaths, sharp bends and hills with gradients of up to 20 per cent.

Members heard the proposed HGVs' route passed 91 homes and a primary school, while an alternative route was just half a mile long and passed no buildings.

Austwick Parish councillor David Dewhirst told the meeting it had been more than a decade since the authority had objected to a planning application, but the "inevitable impact of transporting large quantities of stone and timber through the centre of Austwick village" had not been properly assessed.

He said: "All the evidence suggests that this application has not been responsibly thought through. It focuses soley on the necessity and economic viability of the felling operation with nothing to show that alternative routes had been properly considered, surveyed or costed."

The authority's former chairman, Carl Lis said when plans for nearby quarries had been approved, North Yorkshire County Council's highways officers had found the route through Austwick to the A65 to be unsuitable for HGVs, but had now concluded the timber proposal was fine.

He said the authority's last meeting had seen a consensus about improving access in the national park, particularly for diverse groups such as disabled people, and to suggest HGVs would share the Pennine Bridleway was "totally preposterous".

Other members welcomed the estate's work with the woodland, but said there was a clear conflict over the use of the lane, particularly for horse riders and disabled people.

Member champion for development management Jim Munday said the route was part of a family favourite walk that could see walkers pushed into nettles and brambles beside the road to allow HGVs to pass.

Nevertheless, the meeting heard member and Wensleydale farmer Allen Kirkbride state as the proposal would only generate about one lorry a day along the route, some members had gone into "overkill".

Ahead of the proposal being approved, the committee's acting chairman Mark Corner highlighted how the site was "a working farming landscape" and that timber had been extracted along this route for possibly hundreds of years.

He said: "We do need to keep the number of [HGV] movements in perspective. The alternative routes that have been proposed would be actually more damaging to the landscape than the route that has been proposed."