14 Halton Gill


14-katherine-woodKatherine Wood – Principal Planning Officer, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

This is a view of Halton Gill, from the road that comes over from Malham Moor. Littondale is one of the loveliest dales in the National Park. It has stunning landscape, beautiful villages, and the people who live here all come together as one community.

When I look from the road top, down to the valley bottom and Halton Gill, I focus on the village rather than the landscape. The landscape is as big a part of planning as the buildings, but on a day to day basis it’s the buildings that I work with. I’ve had involvement with half of the buildings in Halton Gill. There’s Manor Farm, a lovely 17th century listed building, which sits prominently in the centre of the village. One of the local farmers has converted a barn nearby to a farm workers’ house. This has worked out so well for them and for the village and I feel I really helped them to achieve this. That’s a part of the job I love – building relationships and helping people through the process. I’ve felt really involved in the village community through my work – a lot of the residents know me, and driving through people wave or stop and talk. It’s somewhere that’s always nice to go back to.

Good development is something that respects the context, that doesn’t harm the character and appearance of a place. It should ideally have a positive impact on the character and appearance, but sometimes the best thing you can achieve has a neutral impact or resolves some existing problem. As a planner, I get the opportunity to influence the development of the area. Most people will approach me early on and say ‘this is what we want to do’ and I’ll help them to make it acceptable. One of the biggest issues is visual impact, and impact on the character of the area. Whilst we always aim for really high quality development, there is only so far we can go – we need to be realistic about what people can afford and what works for a farm or a house, but you can usually get positive results.

The downside of covering the southern dales is that I no longer visit the area when I’m not working. Before working for the Authority I would regularly go walking in Littondale and Wharfedale, but now I see planning issues everywhere and people recognise you as a planner. I don’t think of the north of the Park – where I live – as work. I try not to get involved in any planning issues there; it’s my home.