Built Heritage


Part of the statutory purposes of a National Park is to protect and promote the Cultural Heritage of the area.  This embraces the history of the interaction of humans and the environment, and includes settlement history, land use and farming practices, industry, local traditions and dialects, and much more.  The “Built Heritage” is a major part of this, comprising buildings and other structures from the earliest settlers to the present day.

  • The various forms of the built heritage in the Dales are partly due to the differing geology and geography within the area, and in particular the types of stone available.
  • The built heritage of the Dales includes Archaeology of national importance ranging from cave remains from the last Ice Age, ancient earthworks, traces of early farming, Roman roads and camps, abbeys and castles, to the industrial remains from recent centuries.
  • It embraces distinctive traditional architecture and attractive villages, hamlets and farmsteads sitting harmoniously within the landscape.
  • The “barns and walls landscape” of the Dales is unique, not only in the Dales, but also internationally.
  • Among the many other important and distinctive forms of built heritage are the remains of lead mining, limestone working and water mills; distinctive forms of stiles; fine bridges, churches dating from many periods; non-conformist chapels; traces of former transport systems; and the Settle-Carlisle railway line.
  • The built heritage offers opportunities to tell the story of the landscape and human habitation, helps drive the rural economy and is important to the area’s tourism appeal.


  • Many aspects of the built heritage are currently at risk.  Among the causes of this are changes in farming practices and a decline in farm incomes, which lead to lack of maintenance of some traditional buildings and pressure for their conversion into houses.
  • Many designated assets (Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas) are “at risk” and it is increasingly difficult to secure funds for their conservation.
  • The long term decline of the barns and walls landscape, a key feature of the landscape and part of the Dales’ international appeal, is of special concern.
  • Some settlements which merit Conservation Area status remain undesignated (e.g. Malham).
  • Funding for the maintenance of traditional farm buildings under former schemes such as Environmentally Sensitive Areas or Environmental Stewardship had restrictions on the future use of such buildings which discouraged some applicants, and these funds have now ceased to be available.
  • Changes in population, mobility and religious observance lead to places of worship becoming unviable.  This can result in neglected buildings or to proposals for new uses.

Our Policies

We believe that:

  • There is a need to heighten awareness and appreciation of the built heritage of the Dales.
  • We need to work with others to encourage new funding to conserve and maintain these assets.
  • While maintenance and conservation should be the highest priority, we recognise that “managed decline” (see footnote) has a place as part of the continuing story of the Dales.
  • The National Park Authority and other responsible bodies should receive more funding to reduce the number of Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas which are “at risk”.
  • Future farming support schemes should recognise the vital contribution that small traditional farm buildings and drystone walls make to the beauty and cultural heritage of the area and to the tourist economy, and significant funding for the maintenance and conservation of these structures should form part of any such schemes.
  • Building conversions are in some cases necessary for the survival of a building at risk.  We advocate keeping external changes to a minimum and the retention of features of historic interest.  Such conversions may help support the rural economy and also facilitate the understanding and enjoyment of the Dales’ built heritage.
  • Structures which are not “designated” but regarded locally as significant assets (e.g. bridges, walls, buildings) should be identified and recorded, and their historic interest taken into account alongside designated assets.
  • Some places of worship become redundant, but having served a community for many years, they are an important part of the cultural heritage of an area and may also be of architectural importance. Their appearance should not be altered in such a way as to obscure their former use.

What we will do

We will, through articles in the Yorkshire Dales Review, our events programme, our links with the Campaign for National Parks and other organisations, our comments on the National Park Management Plan, and by our own actions:

  • Campaign for additional government funding to enable the National Park and other responsible authorities to take a more proactive approach to the conservation and management of the built heritage.
  • Campaign for renewed agri-environment funding to farmers for the maintenance and conservation of traditional farm buildings and drystone walls, showing that these are features of the cultural landscape which provide important benefits to the public and support the tourist economy.
  • Help to identify and promote understanding and enjoyment of built heritage assets, especially those that are distinctive of the Dales, and why some have ceased to be used.
  • Encourage ongoing reduction in the numbers of Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas which are at risk.
  • Urge the National Park Authority to develop a targeted programme of funding support for the conserving and appropriate re-use of barns, especially in the barns and walls Conservation Areas.
  • Encourage the National Park Authority to retain (and if possible  expand) its historic environment staff resounces and expertise.
  • Support and encourage the National Park Authority in the maintenance and enhancement of the Historic Environment Record and in ensuring its accessibility to members of the public.
  • Consider the need for new Conservation Area designations and make recommendations to the National Park or other authority.
  • Encourage the responsible authorities to undertake an active programme of Conservation Area enhancement, working with local communities.
  • Through our responses to planning applications:
    • seek to ensure that building conversions and extensions are appropriate in scale and character to their landscape settings
    • encourage the careful and sympathetic conservation and restoration of listed buildings and other examples of traditional vernacular buildings
    • support sensitive, creative and appropriate re-use and adaptation of listed and vernacular buildings where this is necessary to their survival.
    • support the sympathetic and imaginative conversion of former places of worship, so long as architectural features such as fenestration and doorways and name- and date- stones are retained whenever possible.

Footnote: ‘Managed decline’ is the process whereby the loss of the barn is accepted, but a full record of the building, its context and its historic interest is made before consolidation of the ruin or removal and re-use of the materials in other traditional buildings.

Our Trustee Nancy Stedman has been monitoring planning applications to convert barns in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Over recent years a change to planning policy has led to a big increase in applications to convert roadside barns to local occupancy homes or short term holiday lets.

Nancy has created a presenation, downloadable below, to explore the implications of this change in policy – are barns being conserved, and if so, is there more housing for local people?

This presentation has been given to a number of local groups, including by digital presentation, during 2019 and 2020.