The issue of what constitutes farm diversification has come into fresh focus after a farmer who launched a “heavy industry” steel shot blasting and coatings business in open countryside was told to relocate the venture to an urban location.

A clear majority of North Yorkshire Council’s Richmondshire constituency planning committee agreed Karl Syson’s bid to bolster his agricultural income would have too great an impact on users of a public bridleway at Sexhow, near Hutton Rudby, and had potential to create too much noise for nearby residents.

Councillors said a line in the sand needed to be drawn about what was considered acceptable farm diversification, particularly when a venture was launched before consent had been granted.

The decision follows numerous farm diversification schemes being lodged with North Yorkshire planning authorities, with some farmers citing how Brexit and the loss of agricultural subsidies had forced them to look for alternative income sources to make ends meet.

However, the meeting had heard councillors voice concern about potentially putting jobs at risk by refusing Mr Syson retrospective planning permission to change the use of the northern part of an agricultural-style building for the steel processing business he started in January 2022.

Councillors questioned the fairness of refusing consent for the venture, given the nature and impact of other “farm diversification” schemes.

The meeting heard the business, which also involves steel preparation, including the application of steel coatings, was set to employ up to five staff.

Mr Syson told the meeting he had looked to diversify due to the increased costs and loss of income in farming and that the building was ideal for some sort of commercial use.

He said two years ago Hambleton District Council had advised the planning consent granted in 2019 for an agricultural vehicle workshop in part of the barn would also cover shot blasting.

Mr Syson said a traffic assessment had found “no audible impact” and vehicles leaving the site checked that the bridleway, which had a low number of users during working hours, was clear.

He told the meeting: “We have been trading now for over a year, currently with two full-time members of staff, and we are also unaware of any incidents on the road or bridle path and we are prepared to work with the council on any future recommendations.”

However, councillors heard since Mr Syson had launched the business the impact of a “heavy industrial processing plant in rural surroundings” had led the farm to be “commonly known as Blast House” as at times noise levels had been “unbearable” for people living nearby.

A resident told the meeting since the venture was launched there had been exponential growth in traffic, including HGVs, on the bridleway, making safe access to other properties difficult and creating concerns for horse riders.

Councillor Stephen Watson said: “I can’t get away from the fact that this is a heavy industrial unit operating in the countryside.”

Hutton Rudby councillor Bridget Fortune called for the proposal to be rejected, telling the meeting as there was nothing nearby to soak up sound, noise from the building could be heard from a distance.

She said if the change of use was permitted it would set a precedent for other rural sites.

Cllr Fortune said: “We do have industrial estates at Stokesley, Northallerton and Thirsk that could accommodate this business.”