Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm Needs You!

Becky and Richard Burniston are still trying to secure planning approval for the outdoor play area, which has inadvertently caused a breach of planning following the approval granted for Change of Use of agricultural shed and stables to form an education centre.

Planning Officers at Harrogate Council have stated that they believe Fiddler's Green Farm is not a farm, and that Becky and Richard are running a tourist attraction and providing leisure activities, rather than running a working farm, breeding stock and educating children at the same time. Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm education centre, as well as the main Fiddler's Green Farm agricultural business, and Riggmooe Reindeer, are now under threat and the Burnistons need your help.

The revised planning application has now been submitted and we need as many people as possible to contact their local councillor, the ward councillor for Nidd Valley (Councillor Tom Watson) or Trevor Watson, Director of Economy and Culture, to get this planning application heard by the Planning Committee. Download the councillor letter or the letter to Trevor Watson. You can also comment on the planning application as part of Harrogate Borough Council's statutory consultation.

Planning officers at Harrogate Council have already approved an indoor play centre, indicating that children playing at the farm is accepted as part of their learning experience. The outdoor play are is simply a healthy outdoor alternative to the indoor area which can be used whenever it's fine outside. The outdoor play area forms a fundamental element to Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm, providing an alternative space for children aged 3-11 of all abilities to learn through play and learn through interaction with animals. Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm builds on the Burnistons' work over the last ten years, educating youngsters about rural and agricultural life, animals, and the food chain in a safe, holistic and healthy space. Prior to moving to Fiddler's Green Farm, this was delivered only through a mobile farm. By having a dedicated education centre at the farm, with indoor and outdoor facilities, Becky and Richard are able to provide bespoke seasonal activities to enhance the learning environment, and help children learn while having fun.

Since March, they have been in dialogue with stakeholders, the community and Harrogate Borough Council about the inadvertent breach.

During the public consultation held in May, which was well-attended by the community, although only a small number of councillors and local stakeholder organisations attended the Burnistons' vision for educating through play and interaction with animals was explained and welcomed. Many of you have supported the education centre by taking your young people to education-through-interaction and learning-through-play events, and many of you have indicated your support for the education centre with feedback during the pre-application and statutory consultations. Despite this, and readily-available evidence about the advantages of learning-through-play, the council's planning officers refuse to see the benefits of providing an educational experience on a working farm, with a range of spaces to help children develop their knowledge and skills. Moreover, planning officers now think the entire farm has changed use and become a tourist attraction in its own right which they think is unacceptable. They have suggested they want to take enforcement action against the present situation. Enforcement action would threaten the future of all that Becky and Richard have worked for, put livelihoods and jobs under threat, and impact on the region's farming output.

Contact the Ward councillor

Councillor Tom Watson (Lib Dem) is the elected member for the Nidd Valley Ward, where Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm is located. Download a sample letter which you can send to Councillor Watson

As Ward Councillor, he can ask that the revised planning application is considered by the members of the Planning Committee, rather than by officers behind closed doors.

He is also the Chairman of Hartwith cum Winsley Parish Council, which is a consultee body, rather than a planning authority. It is understood that the majority of the Parish Council are in support of the planning application.
You could consider:
  • Urging Councillor Tom Watson to support Becky and Richard's vision for Fiddler's Green Farm as an agriculture and education hub within the Nidd Valley ward
  • Asking Councillor Tom Watson to confirm that he will support councillors, not officers, scrutinising and considering the revised planning application

Harrogate Borough Council's Planning Code of Good Practice for Members and Officers is a useful guide.
Write to Harrogate's councillors or the Director of Economy and Culture

Any member who believes that the planning application ought not to be determined by officers can complete the standard form requesting that the application be determined by the Planning Committee. Such requests must indicate planning grounds as to why consideration by Planning Committee is appropriate. Find the local councillor's contact details or download a sample letter which you can send to your local councillor or the local ward councillor for Nidd Valley, Councillor Tom Watson.

You can also download a sample letter to to send to Trevor Watson, Director of Economy and Culture, who will consider councillors' requests for the planning application to be considered by the Planning Committee, and decide if this will happen.

You could consider:
  • Helping councillors to understand the level of support - both locally and from visitors outside of Harrogate Borough Council's area
  • Help elected members on the Planning Committee understand more about the benefits of children having opportunities to learn about rural and agricultural life, animals and the food chain
  • Help elected members understand how Fiddler's Green Farm is an asset to Harrogate Borough Council and to its own targets around education, health, stronger communities, economic prosperity and investment.
  • Explaining to local councillors how much time you spend in Harrogate an/or visiting the area, and asking them to confirm that councillors, not officers, will support this well-loved farm by scrutinising and considering the revised planning application

Harrogate Borough Council's Planning Code of Good Practice for Members and Officers is a useful guide.
What are the important points?

The inadvertent breach of planning by building the outdoor play area is not disputed. The council's planning department is of the view that the facilities providing by Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm at Fiddler's Green Farm are recreational, rather than agricultural or educational.
You could consider:
  • Is Fiddler's Green Farm still an agricultural business at its core?
  • Is Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm an education centre, providing opportunities for children to learn through play, and by learning through interaction with animals
  • Is the proposal for the outdoor play area in line with the council's
  1. Core Strategy which supports farm diversification in the borough?
  2. The Nidderdale AONB Management Plan, which supports understanding of farming in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and also supports diversification of farming (as does the Core Strategy)
  3. Draft Sport and Leisure Strategy 2018-2023, which sets out the strategic vision for Harrogate to have: “A healthier more active population living longer, more productive and happier lives”, aligned with National Policy?
  4. Economic Growth Strategy 2017-2035, which sets out Harrogate's targets and vision of a 'sustainable and resilient economy by 2035'?
Two sample letters which you may also find useful:
  1. A letter to your local councillor, or to Councillor Tom Watson, elected member for Nidd Valley which is where Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm is located
  2. A letter to Trevor Watson, Director of Economy and Culture, who will decide if the planning application is heard at committee

Just in case you missed it...

Did you know Becky and Richard were recently named Farmer of the Year for their dedication to telling the story of British farming and in recognition for going beyond the call of duty to educate people about food production. The farm is now under threat, but you can help.

To help save this award-winning farm, please have a look on this page to see the different ways you can support Becky and Richard.

and an interview with...

We're delighted to have the support of the community in, including that of the Yorkshire Post's very own Country Week writer, Chris Berry. Chris visited Fiddler's Green Farm recently, and caught up with Becky and Richard in between organising educational visits and talks at Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm. The article was published on 27 October, so make you read it before it goes in the recycling!

(Please bear with us - we are waiting for a high quality version of the page from the Yorkshire Post and will update as soon as we can.)
Next Steps...

The Project Team is in the process of preparing a revised Retrospective Planning Application to safeguard the outdoor play area, with the removal of the aerial runway following discussions with stakeholders.

When the new application is submitted, we will be able to provide you with an Application Reference number to assist you with any representations you make to Harrogate Borough Council during the statutory consultation.

We anticipate lodging the application within the next few weeks. Please check here or our facebook page for more updates.

In the meantime, here's a message from Richard and Becky...

How Can I Help?

There are several ways you can help:

  • The planning officers have decided the previous planning application behind closed doors as a Delegated Decision. We anticipate this to be the case when the revised application is submitted, but we believe the application deserves to be heard by the planning committee. ​​​​​​​Officers seem determined to oppose the farm’s activities and have put an ever-changing series of hurdles in front of Becky and Richard. Elected councillors in Harrogate are able to take a more balanced approach and recognise the benefits of what we are trying to achieve, but only if they are able to debate the proposals at the Planning Committee. For this to happen, the councillors need to know directly from the public - locals and visitors alike - what’s going on and the high level of support that exists for the Yorkshire Farm of the Year. It is hoped that councillors will want to support and help such a well-known farm, if they are aware of threats to its operation. You can contact the local councillor, or any other elected member for Harrogate, and set out why you believe they should ask that the revised planning application for Fiddler's Green Farm should be heard by committee and ask them to support it by asking for it to be considered by the planning committee
  • You can write to your local councillor, setting out why you believe the planning officers' views that Fiddler's Green Farm is not a farm, and that Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm is not an education centre are wrong
  • You can contact your child's early years provider, nursery or school, and encourage them to ask their local councillors to have the planning application heard at committee
  • If you are an early years provider, nursery or school which has visited Brimham Rocks Adventure Farm with pupils, you could contact your local councillor, setting out the benefits of having this education centre locally for you, your organisation and your pupils.