Holiday homes plan sparks row

Siobhan Spencer outside 1, 2 and 3 Dove Cottages Devonshire Square, Beeley, Peak District
Siobhan Spencer outside 1, 2 and 3 Dove Cottages Devonshire Square, Beeley, Peak District

A ROW between the Duke of Devonshire and the villagers who live on his country estate has re-ignited a debate about regulating holiday homes.

Residents across the Peak District have raised fears their communities will die unless the wealthy are restricted from buying second homes and holiday lets – but tourism chiefs say they are essential for the local economy.

The Duke has provoked anger among 200 people in the hamlet of Beeley, which stands in the shadows of Chatsworth House, by forging ahead with plans to transform three stone-built Grade II listed Dove Cottages into hotel rooms.

The homes, which are tied to employment, stand opposite the Devonshire Arms hotel and have provided homes to generations of estate workers since the mid-1800s.

But Peak District National Park Authority’s planning committee has approved plans to turn them into luxury accommodation for tourists.

Siobhan Spencer, who has lived in the village for 30 years, said locals understood tourism was part of modern life, but the proposal would see the total of village homes turned in to holiday rentals reach 25 per cent.

Residents have now formed a heritage group to ensure the village retains it character.

Mrs Spencer said: “These cottages are right in the heart of the community and allowing them to be turned in to hotel rooms threatens to kill that.”

She added: “Beeley is not a very big place and it feels like the tourism aspect of Chatsworth is going to become all consuming.

“We have got real problems in the village now with people who have earned tons of money or who have retired in competition with young kids who are earning £12,000 or £14,000 a year.”

Objectors have been supported by Beeley Parish Council.

At this month’s planning meeting land agent Nick Wood told the committee that Chatsworth Estate owns 31 houses in Beeley village, 15 are occupied by estate staff and pensioners, two are let to the Devonshire Arms (one for letting and one for staff) and 12 are let on residential tenancies.

Chair John Herbert said: “We understand the concerns that residents have raised but there was no local-needs occupancy restriction attached to these dwellings so they could have been rented to people from outside the village or let out as individual holiday cottages without the need for planning permission.

“However, we are keen to make sure that local communities are consulted on plans that affect them so we are asking the trustees to engage with residents of Beeley on the future of the village.

“There is a balance to be struck between the economic benefits of providing visitor accommodation and opportunities for local employment in the village whilst retaining smaller properties for the community.

“There are no restrictions on the use of the properties at present and we considered that the proposed use is acceptable.”