AN ambition of the Bahrain royal family to establish a world leading centre to breed peregrine falcons and exotic birds has been put on hold after concerns the raptors could come into conflict with other birds of prey.

Members of Hambleton District Council’s planning committee heralded the proposed conservation scheme which would see the House of Khalifa export pure-bred racing and hunting birds, some of which would be internationally endangered, to the Middle East from a farm off Dawney Lane, Easingwold.

The scheme would see a 98-metre long natural pairs barn, quarantine and incubator brooder buildings and two barns for gyrkin falcons. Alongside this the centre would feature three large female breeding chambers, a circular 50-metre diameter hackpen building and 84-metre, 68-metre and 46-metre long buildings for parrots, eagles and condors respectively.

The meeting heard councillors criticise those behind the scheme for starting constructing numerous large buildings on open countryside without planning consent, but also warmly welcome the plans.

Councillor Bridget Fortune, who visited the site earlier this week with other members, described the scheme as “conservation in a big way”, while other councillors said it had been clear significant investment was being poured into a prestigious and large-scale centre.

She added: “There is an enormous amount of time and money being invested in this, protecting endangered species and particularly those at risk of being lost totally, so it has to be commended. ”

The meeting heard councillors say the project would boost the rural economy as well as provide an educational boost to visiting schoolchildren.

However, the meeting was told just hours before the meeting veteran falconer Andrew Fawcett, who has run York Bird of Prey Centre, at Burn Hall, Huby, for 11 years, had raised concerns about the potential impact on his business.

He said as the proposed centre was just one and a half miles away from his zoo, which has repeatedly been named among North Yorkshire’s top attractions, he had serious concerns for the welfare of both his birds and those at Dawney Lane.

He said: “Zoo legislation says we have to fly them four days a week or more, which we do.

“It might be a good thing for them to do this, but they have got an issue because my birds fly over their property. Any falconer knows for birds of prey the three things is food, continuity and flying weights. My birds are at flying weights to fly them free so they’ll come back. So their birds are in danger from mine overhead.”

Sara Skalman, who is leading the scheme and will run the facility with fellow falcon breeding expert Mark Robb for the Khalifa family, responded saying none of the birds would ever be free-flown under any circumstances.

She said: “They are only there for breeding.  They are in enclosed exercise pens and they will be exported abroad.”

Ms Skalman said while the project was already underway before consent had been given it was not due to “arrogance or in disregard to the planning process”.

Planning officers said they had been unaware of Mr Fawcett’s concerns and that the National Planning Policy Framework set an expectation on developers not to harm the circumstances of another business.

They said they could not yet be certain that the proposal would not impact on the York Bird of Prey Centre, before councillors voted to defer a decision over the scheme.