The owner of an historic Yorkshire Dales inn will not have to replace the pub’s main features, despite enforcement action being launched against her conversion of the licensed premises into a four-bedroom home and tearoom without planning consent.

After members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority overwhelmingly approved action to tackle unauthorised changes at The Moorcock Inn, Garsdale Head, planning officers poured cold water on hopes the large bar and lounge’s fixtures and fittings would have to be restored within six months.

However, following the decision of the authority’s planning committee, residents said rather than the building remaining empty they wanted to work with its owner, Joanne Cox, to create a viable business.

Ms Cox had said after selling another property in the area she was “looking to downsize” and live at the premises.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The Moorcock Inn, Garsdale Picture: Google

She said due to falling trade in the public house business, she wanted to change the use of the rear part of the property from the manager’s residence into a licensed tearoom.

Members heard the owner had written to the authority highlighting the economic difficulties faced by The Moorcock and the pub trade, the difficulty of selling pubs and the benefit of her living on site and continuing to run an enterprise, but the pub had not been marketed.

Numerous residents of the Upper Wensleydale hamlet of Garsdale Head attending the meeting heard members and residents disagree with Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council that the pub was no longer viable, saying it had suffered from erratic opening hours since the pandemic and been left to become “an eyesore”.

One resident told the meeting the pub was “a valuable if not irreplaceable community asset” and served as “the heartbeat of our community” for generations, hosting celebrations and farmers’ domino drives.

Due to the sparsity of suitable alternative community buildings in the area, the inn even served as a temporary morgue and inquest venue in 1910, following the nearby London to Glasgow train crash in which 12 people died.

The resident said the 18th Century pub was in a prime location for visitors with the popular Pennine Bridleway on its doorstep and being the only pub in the 16 miles between Sedbergh and Hawes.

In addition, the meeting heard the inn was close to Garsdale station, through which 16 trains a day and a regular bus service pass, and where a potential multi-user route to Hawes has been tabled to terminate.

The resident said: “The only possible outcome for this planning application is for personal financial gain and in doing so destroying part of our cultural heritage.”

Member Richard Foster said consenting to the conversion would mean allowing “every single pub in every single village to be turned into a house without going through the correct process”.

He said: “When you buy a Dales pub you buy into the culture of running a Dales pub and you buy into the work ethic of running a Dales pub. If it doesn’t suit then, I’m sorry, but you have really got to sell it.”

Members agreed the inn would be difficult to replace, and without any robust evidence to demonstrate its use as a home was the only option, its conversion was “considerably contrary” to the authority’s policies aiming to safeguard community facilities.

Officers told the meeting they would enforce against the pub’s unlawful use as a home, and manager’s accommodation as a tearoom and letting rooms, which would require the removal of all related fittings, enclosures and window and door alterations, but they were unable to require the pub’s bar and lounge areas to be restored.

Nevertheless, members were told the premises’ use would determine its value, suggesting it would be financially advantageous for the building to be converted back to a pub.