A CELEBRATED artist has warned his “most important work” could remain unfinished unless planners override policies to protect a nationally important landscape and area of special scientific interest.

The North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee has postponed a decision on whether to allow sculptor Andy Goldsworthy to complete his Hanging Stones sculpture trail by building stone properties on ruins of historic buildings in Rosedale to house artworks.

In a statement to the committee, the sculptor said while he had created art in landscapes for 44 years, the Hanging Stones project would be the most important work he ever produced.

He said it was up to the committee to decide if Hanging Stones “would be experienced as a complete or incomplete artwork”, following him finishing four sculptured buildings in the dale. “Either way”, he said, “your decision will be written into a story that will be read by generations to come.

Mr Goldsworthy said: “Hanging Stones is the culmination of everything I know. I am 63 and still fit enough to work physically on the artworks myself. Hanging Stones will take about five years to complete. This moment will not happen again.”

Supporters of the scheme have described the proposed artworks as “genius”. The artworks have been commissioned for the work by the charitable foundation of the former Carphone Warehouse businessman and Rosedale Estate owner David Ross.

However, Chris France, the park authority’s director of planning, said while Hanging Stones was “a very innovative project that would in the right place would be a great asset”, it was sporadic development in a nationally protected landscape and was at odds with long-standing policies to protect the countryside.

He added the project also had potential to cause harm to protected species on a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Mr France said: “Officers absolutely recognise the quality and exceptional nature of the artworks, but we feel the cumulative impact of the buildings and the significant increase in visitors would erode the special qualities of tranquility and sense of remoteness which our Local Management Plan seeks to protect.

“This does not have to take place in the national park.

“This is about Andy’s personal ambitions which he would open up for the public enjoyment.”

The park authority’s chairman Jim Bailey said the project should be considered as “exceptional, rather than just sporadic development” and on the 70th anniversary of national parks legislation, represented something that the North York Moors could be proud of for decades to come.

He added: “I believe this project will take people into the national park in a sustainable way.”

Member Jeremy Walker added the authority needed to recognise opportunities for the positive evolution of the park.

Fellow member and Rosedale resident Ena Dent said she was “pulled both ways” over the application, adding: “I wonder if Michaelangelo or the Egyptian pyramids had gone to planning what we would have lost.”

A decision on the project was deferred until the applicant provided further details, such as an in-depth visitor management plan and permissive path proposals and for habitat surveys to be undertaken.