Bentham Master Plan.

Update as of March the 10th 2023.

Initial Findings
February 2023
1.1Bentham Masterplan is a joint initiative from Craven District Council in partnership
with Bentham Town Council and North Yorkshire County Council.
Bentham Masterplan aims to produce a plan:
“For the rejuvenation of the town centre
and to set out a clear vision for the future development of Bentham.”
Our aim has been to develop a plan that sets a well-defined path for Bentham to
become an economically and environmentally sustainable town. Bentham is a
distinctive town. We aim to generate a plan which will build upon what is special
about the town. This must meet the aspirations of local stakeholders and be in line
with the opportunities available.
A final plan may be able to define a series of projects/interventions – both short-term
quick wins and longer-term transformational investments – that can be progressed by
local residents with the agreement and support of local authorities and other partners.
Consultation will be essential for the plan to be adopted by the community and
businesses so that ultimately, it can succeed. We hope the final plan can be
consistent with Craven Plan SP7 Strategy for Bentham and Craven Bentham
Preservation Area.

2.1Bentham is the second largest settlement in Craven after Skipton. Bentham serves a
wide rural hinterland in North Craven, and this elevates its role and function to a Key
Service Centre.Bentham is in the north-west of Craven District, approximately 37km north-west of
Skipton and 25km north-east of Lancaster. The town is just over 5km south of the
A65. This separation from the strategic road network means that the town is one of
the more isolated service centres in North Yorkshire. This has inspired the local often
repeated saying:
“All roads lead to Bentham, but there isn’t a good one among them”
The current road network is seriously inhibiting business development in Bentham.
The town needs better connectivity to the A65 to the North and to the A683 and the
M6 to the West.
Bentham’s population is growing slowly 3,035 (2021 Census) with 57% of the
population of working age. Compare this with the populations of some surrounding
towns: Ingleton 2,186, Settle 2,714 and Kirkby Lonsdale 1,968. The fact that
Bentham’s population is larger than these surrounding towns is not immediately
apparent to anyone looking at the town centre as it lacks the retail variety that others
have and also feels less inviting.
There has been a significant amount of house building in Bentham in recent years,
more than 100 homes were completed in 2020. At the time of writing, planning
permission is being decided on over 140 homes across 5 sites around the town. This
is attracting new people to the area.
The town lies on the River Wenning, just west of the Yorkshire Dales National Park
and on the northern edge of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural
Beauty. Although set in an area of outstanding landscapes, surrounded by well-
known visitor areas, Bentham has a low profile and does not have the pull of other
nearby market towns; it is seen by residents as “a solid, quiet working town”.
The development of Bentham can be attributed to a strong tradition of manufacturing
allied to its function as a market town. Bentham Auction Mart and Angus Fire,
manufacturers of fire safety products, play a major part in the economic activity of the
town. Bentham Auction Market has a fine reputation; it is “one of the leading livestock
markets in the North of England”. The activities of both are hampered by the poor
access roads for road transport.2.5
Like many small towns, Bentham is undergoing pressure from changes in retail
practices nationally, internet shopping and the shifting pattern of employment in the
area. However, Bentham has a range of strengths and opportunities including:

Land allocated for housing and employment development within the Craven
Local Plan

Proximity to Lancaster and the M6, including Lancaster University, which
creates new opportunities to increase the number of businesses in the
knowledge-based and creative sectors

Positioned between the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Forest of
Bowland Area of 0utstanding Natural Beauty provides nearby visitor
●Strong local identity with currently a sound economic base
●The town is served by the Leeds-Skipton-Lancaster/Morecambe railway line
(also known as the Bentham Line); the station is within walking distance of the
town centre. The Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership (LMCRP)
has recently commissioned a study to evaluate the use of the line and its
potential development as a trans-Pennine route. In addition, traffic should be
greatly enhanced with the opening of a new Eden Project in Morecambe

High proportion of regular visitors due to three large static caravan/holiday
parks and an 18-hole golf course located on the outskirts of the town centre

There are two Council-owned car parks close to (but relatively inaccessible
from) the town centre, providing free short and long-stay parking. In addition,
the District Council owns a one-hectare greenfield site on the edge of the
study area, which has been identified as having potential to support the
development of the town centre.
However, Bentham is subject to a range of constraints and pressures that are
affecting its long-term viability. These include:

Poor transport links, with travel being car dominated●

Over reliance on two major employers
It is relatively unknown outside the immediate vicinity

A number of vacant commercial premises within the town centre; these and
other premises also need refreshing
●Retailers still observing half-day closing, including one weekday and Saturday
●Low level of footfall compared to other comparable settlements with most
visits being relatively brief (under one hour)

infrastructure compared to other comparable settlements in Craven District
The effect of increased commuting and a reduction in the number of people being
drawn to the town has made its retail sector and function as a local service centre for
a wider rural hinterland, vulnerable. Nevertheless, the Bentham Masterplan Team are
confident that the character of the town can provide a distinctive offer that will draw
people back.
3.1As Craven District Council were unable to recruit an appropriately qualified outside
consultant in Spring 2022, the project stalled. In Autumn 2023 a group of four
appropriately qualified local volunteers offered to take the project on (Bentham
Masterplan Team). This was agreed in September 2022 by Craven District and
Bentham Town Councils.
Local government, Craven District Council, North Yorkshire County Council, or their
successor, and Bentham Town Council will need to provide support and specialist
help/consultancy to identify the opportunities which can be developed. This will also
be needed to support those in the community who have come forward because of the
work of the Bentham Masterplan Team and have expressed an interest in helping to
bring about change.
The overall objective remains the sameto set out a clear vision for the future development and rejuvenation of
An essential element of the project is to ensure there is extensive, open and inclusive
engagement with the local community. Local residents, visitors, local interest groups,
existing occupiers, owners and employers together with public sector bodies such as
North Yorkshire County Council (the local highway authority) will all need to be
included in a well-planned and executed engagement and consultation exercise.
The consultation with the population of Bentham, visitors, commercial and other
interest groups started in October 2022 and ran through until mid-December 2022. It
is now complete.
The consultation was achieved by the generation and distribution of two Bentham
Masterplan Questionnaires – one for individual responses and a second for groups
and businesses.
The questionnaires for individuals were distributed as widely as possible to all
residents and visitors, using local knowledge and networks to encourage
It was inserted as a flyer in the October issue of Bentham News, which has a
circulation of 2,000 and is delivered free to all homes in Bentham.
● Bentham News also gave editorial support with full page features explaining
the project and the importance of the questionnaires. This coverage, like the
questionnaire itself, featured a QR code for people to complete the
questionnaire online if they wished. The QR code linked to Survey Monkey,
and this, understandably, was the preferred way of responding for our
younger participants.
● Public relations – the Bentham Masterplan team did a Press Release which
generated a full-page feature in the Craven Herald and a smaller feature in
the Westmorland Gazette both of which included the QR code survey link.
● Public Notices – were displayed throughout the town featuring the QR code
to encourage residents and visitors to “Have Your Say”.
● Social Media – Bentham Masterplan and the QR code were featured on a
number of Bentham social media sites, specifically Facebook and
Instagram.The questionnaires for Interest Groups, Clubs, Societies and Faith Groups were
emailed directly to just over 50 organisations – from Age Concern through to Yoga.
They were accompanied by an email explaining about the Bentham Masterplan and
including the links to the group Survey Monkey site.
Trade and businesses were consulted similarly by email and with the appropriate
link to the Survey Monkey site. Twenty-six businesses were consulted in this way.
Local shops and businesses where no email address was available, received a
hand-delivered questionnaire with a covering letter. Thirty-two were distributed in this
way, from Sweetie Sue’s to Audioworks.
For a survey of this kind where a 2% response would have been satisfactory, the
results were outstanding. Over 10% of the population replied, underlining the interest
Bentham people have in making improvements to their town.
4.Analysis of questionnaire returns
4.1The method used
The questionnaire returns have provided details of what residents and others like and
don’t like about Bentham but also suggestions of what changes in the short and
longer terms they would like to see. We also know who responded in terms of their
gender, age and residence status, whether they live and/or work in the town, are
visitors, run businesses and/or are employers.
To make these findings useful as prompts to action the responses have been put into
categories to show the pattern of answers to each of the questions asked. As the
questionnaire was designed to allow respondents to use their own words this
analysis needed replies to be grouped together under common headings, such as‘the town centre appearance’, ‘the quantity and quality of community facilities’,
‘problems with the road layout and traffic issues’ etc. The headings to be used were
based on the answers people gave to the questions asked. All the responses were
read as they came in and divided between headings that were adjusted as we went
along to try to reflect what people had said. So, headings were added and removed
as necessary. As some possible categories such as ‘development planning’ or
‘government funding policy’ were rarely if ever mentioned they were not included in
the analysis, whereas others, such as ‘anti-social behaviours’, were added.
To be as accurate as possible without getting overly complicated, all the varied
replies had to be placed in a limited number of categories created by grouping issues
under inclusive headings. All the individual replies were then entered into a database
under these headings, which allowed the following picture to emerge. It should not,
however, be assumed that this is anything more than a reasonably accurate depiction
of trends and patterns. Using this method of analysis cannot accurately reflect all the
differing opinions and views received, but it does give a broad picture based on what
respondents wrote. The pie charts are simply intended as an illustrative device to
roughly reflect proportions. Where an important issue was raised by only a small
number of respondents, we have tried to ensure that headings were flexible enough
to include them and where appropriate these will be mentioned in the accompanying
4.2 Demographic pattern of respondents
We received 385 completed questionnaires from individuals (4 of whom also replied
on the group questionnaire) and a further 40 from organisations, groups and
businesses. This represents over 10% of the Bentham population, which is a good
response rate for an untargeted survey. However, it does, of course, mean that we
cannot be certain that the following analysis precisely reflects the views of the whole
population of the town.
4.2.1 Responses from individuals
The individual respondents were 54% female, 39% male, 6.6% unknown. 0.4% other,
and the age spread was as follows:Age groupPercentage
Over 6047.7%
41 – 6026.7%
13 -202.0%
Under 1212.1%
Not known5.5%
4.2.2 Residence pattern
Respondents were asked to indicate whether they lived and/or worked in Bentham or
whether they were visitors. The children who kindly responded with the help of staff
at the school used the visitor category if they came to the school in Bentham from
Residence etcPercentage
Live in Bentham77%
Live and work in Bentham9%
Work in Bentham2%
Visitors, including pupils coming from out of town to the school10%
Not known
Ten of the individual respondents also ran businesses in the town and three were
Individual Respondents’ views
The following description attempts to record fairly accurately the responses received
to each question asked. Inevitably this means there will be some duplication.
Some people considered a particular issue more urgent than did others, so it appears
as a response to multiple questions. Some also considered one issue so important
that they included it in all their replies and a number chose several concerns in theirresponse to one question. However, when viewed as a whole we hope it gives a
clear picture of the views of all respondents.
In your opinion what is the best thing about Bentham?
The pattern of responses was clear.
A significant majority of respondents, almost half, considered that the community
ethos, the friendliness and helpfulness of the people was the best thing about
Bentham. A further quarter chose the local environment as the best thing. These two
headings were therefore considered the best thing by almost three quarters of the
Smaller numbers recommended the community and town facilities available such as
the range of shops, the large number of specialist interest groups, services and
organisations. Some of those named included the health centre, library, Pioneer
Projects and Bentham News.
Smaller numbers mentioned the benefits of free parking, the good train service and
the fact that Bentham remains a working town and has not been taken over by
tourism or commuting.
5.2 In your opinion what is the worst thing about Bentham?
Again, there was notable agreement with roughly a third choosing as the worst thing
the town centre appearance and another third the roads, traffic congestion andparking problems. Difficulties with public transport, particularly the lack of a useful
bus service, was chosen by another quarter of respondents. Smaller, but still
significant numbers, chose

access issues for those with mobility problems or moving about with babies
and children;
●the lack of some essential facilities in the town such as public toilets;
●the poor business environment including the lack of a fast broadband service;
●the lack of facilities for young people and children.
Concern was also expressed about some types of anti-social behaviour, including
substance abuse.
5.3. What small thing would make the centre of Bentham better?
Responses grouped around three main suggestions, though not all of them can
perhaps really be called ‘small’. These were firstly, and not surprisingly perhaps,
Respondents suggested the installation of pedestrian crossings, improving the layout
of and access to the car parks, better monitoring and control of speed limits and on-
street parking, repair of pavements and traffic calming.
Almost as common were suggestions of improvements to the appearance of the town
centre. These included renovation and reuse of empty properties, the revival of aregular market, support to residents to improve the appearance of houses along Main
Street, with the addition of more plants, trees and colour, regular general tidying and
removal of litter and dog waste.
The need to replace the bus service to Lancaster was a common concern, including
references to the wider impact of the lack of easy access to employment
opportunities in local towns and the potential loss of workforce for businesses in
Bentham. Already affecting many residents, and frequently mentioned, is the regular
need for access to health and other professional services in Lancaster.
The development of new opportunities in new or repurposed buildings was also
suggested frequently. This included up-to-date industrial and co-working facilities for
the self-employed, free town-wide Wi-Fi, fuller and better use of the Town Hall for
events and/or community services and space for arts and crafts enterprises.
Other responses suggested more attention be given to all access issues, especially
for people with disabilities and parents and carers accompanied by babies and
children where pavements are narrow and uneven. This is seen as especially urgent
by many with the recent development of an extra-care facility at Bowland View which
houses 100+ new residents in Bentham. Of particular concern also was the need to
improve activities and facilities for young people and children, some of which have
recently been lost. Regular policing to deter antisocial behaviours of all kinds was
also felt to be lacking.
.5.4 What one change would you like to see immediately?
The three most frequently selected areas needing immediate improvement are the
same as those chosen as ‘small improvements’. They are the roads and traffic, the
town centre environment and public transport, respondents are clearly aware that
these are urgently required.
Many community facilities were thought to need improving or developing. Particularly
noted were facilities and activities for children and young people such as after-school
clubs, a youth club, better playparks and evening activities for young people. This
merged with the requests for more sports facilities, especially a gym and
improvements to the playing fields.
Some aspects of the physical infrastructure such as industrial premises, more
business and retail premises and the consequent increase in locally based job
opportunities was also considered to be urgent. Improving access to the local rural
and countryside attractions including better visitor accommodation and facilities, a
camp site, visitor information services and notice boards were also highlighted.
Several respondents considered that local government, at all levels, has somewhat
neglected Bentham and expressed the hope that this would change quickly, with the
Town Council becoming more forward thinking.5.5 What one change would you like to see over the next 10 years?
Answers to this question were more evenly spread with the most popular being a
desire to see the town centre environment improved, followed by improvements to
the road network and business environment.
Aspirations in all three areas were many and varied. Hopes for the town centre
focussed on improvements to its appearance, an increase in the number and variety
of shops and the development of areas for people to congregate and hold town
events. Several people mentioned their desire for a town square, more seating and
green spaces with plants and trees. More specifically it was hoped that the use of the
Town Hall could be widened, to become the community centre, with the suggestion
that a manager be appointed to co-ordinate both its use and other areas of the town’s
It was felt that the traffic problems might be relieved in a variety of ways over the next
decade. Suggestions included a partial bypass from the B6480 to opposite Angus
Fire, improved access to car parks enabling the banning of parking on Main Street,
altering access to the Auction Mart and speed bumps.
Hopes were also expressed for improvements to the business environment including
free fast Wi-Fi across the town, encouragement to develop arts and creative
industries and co-working space for the self-employed. Making the town more
attractive aesthetically was also considered likely to encourage businesses to base
themselves in the town.
Other respondents wanted to see the development of more sophisticated community
facilities such as a sports centre and gym. Also suggested were better public toilets,
a youth centre, a museum and a larger and relocated health centre providing more
NHS services.
Public transport aspirations focussed on the replacement of the bus service to
Lancaster but also included more frequent trains on the Bentham Line and a train
‘request halt’ at Low Bentham.Others suggested the town has the capacity to become much more energy self-
sufficient with community-controlled electricity generation using the river or wind
turbines on the moor.
Many hoped the reliance on the agricultural economy could be maintained at the
same time as improving access to the surrounding countryside, encouraged by better
mapping and signposting of walking trails, footpaths and cycle routes.
A small but significant number of replies noted hopes for an increase in affordable
homes, often combined with a request that further private housing developments be
deferred until the basic infrastructure of the town has been improved.
5.6 Any other comments?
Unsurprisingly the comments offered here largely repeated issues raised elsewhere
on the questionnaire. In addition, some people offered precise suggestions of the
changes they would like to see. All these comments have been recorded and can be
accessed but are too numerous to list here. Examples include a cinema, adulteducation provision, a meditation space, a digital hub, less dog poo, a pump track
and more attention and input from local government authorities at all levels of town,
district and county councils.
However, not everyone wanted change and a small number of respondents made
comments such as ‘I like everything about Bentham’ and ‘I wouldn’t change
anything’. One young respondent wrote ‘I love Bentham so much I don’t think there is
anything bad about it’. Hopefully any change brought about because of the
Masterplan project will ensure this young person retains this positive view of the town
into adulthood.
Responses from Groups and Organisations
We received 40 responses from groups and organisations. These included sports
clubs, churches, voluntary organisations and public and private service providers and
businesses. Many of their answers were very specific to their situation, commenting
on the adequacy and accessibility or otherwise of their premises or the availability
and cost of alternatives. The total number being small, percentages are less reliable
than for the larger number of individual responses. However, some consistencies are
Responses reiterated the general feeling that the best thing about Bentham is the
community ethos, the knowledge that people are mostly willing to help one another
and support local businesses and organisations. Several community facilities were
especially praised, the library, Pioneer Projects and Bowland View were amongst
those named.
The worst thing about the town was felt by these groups to be the roads and parking,
and the general sense of dejection in the town centre.
The most urgent improvement to the centre of the town was felt to be tackling the
traffic, roads and parking, especially along Main Street. Bentham Auction Mart said
that without doubt the most inhibiting factor to their business at the Auction is the
road network leading to the town.Groups and businesses also want to see more shops and other enterprises to
provide goods and services locally, so residents do not have to look elsewhere for
them, and the town centre would then feel more vibrant. Better access to fast Wi-Fi
was also suggested as it would encourage new business developments.
For the longer term the same issues were raised including the need for better public
transport and more events and activities in the evenings and weekends.
What next?
The questionnaire findings described above show that there are four or five main
themes in residents’ responses. We now intend to work with Craven/North Yorkshire
to refine these. We want to be able to identify two or three issues where work can
begin immediately to identify the detail of what needs to be done. This will involve
establishing small development groups from amongst those who offered their help in
their questionnaire responses. We will be asking them to gather more precise
information about what can be achieved quickly and what will need to be deferred for
inclusion in the longer, final Masterplan.
We hope and expect that the Town Council will want to offer active participation and
forward looking support to this work. We are grateful for the use of the Town Hall for
meetings and expect to have more need of this support in the future.
Prepared for further discussions with Craven District Council and Bentham Town Council in
February and March 2023 by
Elizabeth Adlington
Shirley Brown
Phil Gerrie
Jim Munday

Read more: Bentham Master Plan. Read more: Bentham Master Plan.
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