A plan to help solve the housing crisis gripping the Yorkshire Dales National Park has sparked fresh calls for more developments to be allowed in the area’s historic villages.
Community leaders battling to arrest the ongoing departure of young people from the park area due to access to affordable housing have questioned proposals by the national park authority to focus new housing in a handful of larger settlements and leave the vast majority of villages untouched.
After launching a public consultation over potential housing development sites for the park to 2040 to meet the government requirement for 850 new homes, the authority revealed it had whittled down more than 100 potential sites put forward to just 33.
Most of the potential development land is in the park’s largest settlements, with up to 50 homes in Hawes, 92 homes in Sedbergh, 199 homes in Grassington and neighbouring Threshfield and 119 more homes nine miles away in Embsay, but sites have also been identified in other villages.
Under the proposed plans additional housing will also be able to be built on smaller plots of land within housing development boundaries.
However, the proposed strategy follows the North Yorkshire Rural Commission concluding that to make remote communities sustainable each parish in rural North Yorkshire should see five houses built over a ten-year period, 40 per cent of which needed to be affordable or available for rent.
The authority’s champion for sustainable development Carl Lis said: “I want to stress that this is a consultation, not a done deal and I would urge people to share their views with us on the suitability of each of the 33 potential sites.”
He said housebuilding was part of the approach that would help sustain local communities and it was the authority’s role to make sure new homes were built in suitable locations.
Mr Lis said: “Action on housing – particularly affordable housing – is vital for the long term viability of local communities in the national park as it faces a significant population challenges that risks reducing demand for local services.”
Other members questioned whether the proposed strategy would help keep many smaller villages functioning as communities.
Wensleydale farmer John Amsden said: “I know two or three lads in my village who will never be able to afford a house in the Dales on the wages local people get as they are such a ridiculous price. Even two-bedroom houses are getting up to £300,000 now.
“A recent planning meeting heard places like Leyburn would become dormitory towns for those working in the national park because they will slightly cheaper.”
Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock said if communities in her division were to survive they “cannot just stay like they were 100 years ago” and would need to evolve with sympathetic developments on their outskirts.
She said: “The proposed development boundaries around our smaller villages are very tight and everything outside of those will be considered sites that have to meet a strict set of exception criteria, making it much harder to build houses.
“We shouldn’t really have boundaries, but they should at least be realistic to make sure we get more children living in the dales to keep schools open and communities vibrant. We should consider sites on merit as they come forward.”
Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council chair Jill McMullon added while the proposals for her ward represented an opportunity to increase access to housing for young people, they would need to be affordable.
She said: “It’s all very well saying we’re going to build houses and then developers come along with plans for four-bedroom three-bathroom properties. They must be starter homes rather than fancy properties. Things can’t stay the same or else in ten years’ time there will be no young people left.”