Plans to extend a Yorkshire Dales caravan site have been approved on appeal after nearly four years.

Councillors originally turned down the scheme for 27 holiday lodges at Akebar Park, in Wensleydale. The owners have welcomed the decision but hit out at the delay and are calling on the government to press forward with reforms to the planning process, saying the time it can take is “utterly abhorrent and stifles economic growth”.

There were concerns the extension at Akebar Park, in Wensleydale, near Leyburn would be out of character with the area and create flooding issues.

It was refused originally by the former Richmondshire District Council, now part of North Yorkshire Council.

Darlington and Stockton Times: An image of the lodges planned for Akebar

Planning Inspector Conor Rafferty said the site is an area of land featuring grassland, trees, hedgerows, and a waterbody that forms part of a golf course to the east of the existing rural caravan park, which has 180 static caravans and space for 110 caravans and tents.

Richmondshire council planners were concerned the scheme for new tourist accommodation did not comply with their core strategy that development would only be supported if it did not adversely affect the character and appearance of the area.

Mr Rafferty said when he visited the site he acknowledged that the proposal would result in an overall increase in such accommodation within the rural surrounds but he concluded: "The proposal would not result in harm to the character and appearance of the area."

A Flood Risk and Drainage Impact Assessment had been carried out and Mr Rafferty added: "This concluded that the site, located in Flood Zone 1, was at low risk of surface water flooding and that the proposal would have no effect on fluvial and tide flood risk, ground water flood risk, sewer flood risk, or flood risk elsewhere."

He approved the appeal. The decision has been welcomed by Akebar Park Leisure Limited. In a statement the firm said: "We are absolutely delighted with the decision made by the Planning Inspectorate, meaning we can now progress with offering top quality holiday homes in a wonderful location, that is in North Yorkshire, whilst ensuring we maintain our good track record on environmental and sustainable practices throughout the development and beyond.

"It has been a long road, the application was first submitted on July 22, 2020 and has taken nearly four years to get to this point. We urge the government to press forward making reforms to the planning process; the length of time it takes for thousands of businesses across the country to gain planning permission is utterly abhorrent and stifles economic growth across many industries.

"Upon commencement of the development, it will provide a boost locally to businesses and general employment, from civil and groundworks partnerships to long term employment opportunities within sales, housekeeping and grounds maintenance."