The owner of a former award-winning seafood restaurant in Staithes has accused planners of putting policy before people and condemning the village to a slow death.
Brian Kay of High Street put the building – the Endeavour Restaurant, which also has rooms – up for sale when it closed last November.
He wanted to sell it to Durham newlyweds Alex and Lee Holmes, whose dream was to make it their family home and let two of the four bedrooms as bed and breakfast accommodation.
But earlier this month, a planning application by Mr Kay for it to be sold on the open market was rejected by the North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee, despite it being backed by Hinderwell Parish Council and residents who signed a petition of support.
There had not been a single objection to the plans. The couple, who recently celebrated their marriage in Staithes, had wanted to move to the village for years.
However, their hopes were dashed when their mortgage lender said planning permission would be needed to change from business to residential and planning officers explained the change would bring a local occupancy restriction preventing them from buying it because they had not lived in the national park for five years.
Mr Kay said: “As the only building with a local occupancy restriction on it Endeavour House just will not sell. It will stand blighted empty and useless.
“The planners claim they are doing this to promote healthy and sustainable communities but without people living and working here you haven’t got a community – you’ve got a dying museum.
“When anyone wants to live in Staithes the planners should welcome them with open arms. Slamming the door in their face is condemning the village to a slow death through depopulation.”
Mrs Holmes (32) of St Nicholas Drive said he and his wife are “devastated.”
“This makes no sense to us, nor to the people of Staithes,” he said.
“The planners say the change of use makes it a new dwelling but the building has been a dwelling for hundreds of years and only recently housed a restaurant.
“They say it can only be sold to local people but local people aren’t moving into the village, they are moving out.
“Those that are left are desperate for more full-time residents to help support the dwindling community and the tourist economy but the planners only seem to want to give permission for holiday lets which stand empty most of the year.”
An appeal is now being lodged against the decision.
Chris France, director of planning for the North York Moors National Park Authority, said the decision to uphold the National Park Authority’s policy of restricting new housing development was made in the longer term interests of protecting housing in the national park for local people, or those with an essential need to live there for employment or existing family reasons.
He said: “This is a well established policy that operates in all national parks to ensure that the limited new housing that becomes available – either through new build or from conversions does not become a second or holiday home.
“Although it was acknowledged that the initial potential new occupiers intended to use the house as their permanent family home, its conversion without a local occupancy condition would have meant that in the future it could easily have been sold on the open market and bought by anyone who wanted to use it as a second home.
“This would not be to the benefit of the community or economy of the village.
“The decision was therefore not about an indiscriminate application of policy, but was carefully considered and reflected the committee’s approach which is about putting people and the wider community before the personal circumstances of the applicant – which is a proper and reasonable action of a planning authority.”