Further action to tackle rising amounts of second homes and holiday lets in the Yorkshire Dales National Park looks set to be cemented into a blueprint to shape the highly protected area until 2040.
A meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority on Tuesday is set to consider responses to a consultation on its emerging Local Plan, which features a number of policies designed to increase access to housing for local residents and young residents.
The proposed policies come ahead of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive considering introducing a 100 per cent council tax premium on second and empty homes across the county as part of a wide-ranging drive by various authorities to secure the future of communities in areas popular with visitors.
The North Yorkshire Rural Commission, which was established by the council in 2019 to look into a host of issues affecting countryside communities, concluded last year that the shortage of affordable housing was among the greatest challenges to resolve.
An officer’s report to the park authority meeting states the consultation has confirmed “overwhelming support” for all new housing to be for permanent residents.
However, officers have highlighted some respondents had dubbed the measure too weak and had stated all new housing should be targeted at local need only as permanent occupancy would still mean younger residents faced competition from retirees.
While community leaders say it is only fair people retiring from working a lifetime in the Dales, such as farmers, should be able to continue living in the area, concerns have also been raised that about 30 per cent of national park residents are aged over 65, about double the national average.
The consultation has also found support for the authority attempting to get housing built on specific sites it has identified, as finding suitable land for housing in the national park has proved to be a major hurdle in developing affordable housing.
However, the consultation drew mixed views on whether building 50 homes a year in the national park would be “a realistically ambitious target”, with some respondents proposing a higher target.
Views were also split over whether requiring developers to provide up to 50 per cent affordable housing on sites in certain areas of the park is achievable.
Ahead of the meeting, Upper Dales councillor and park authority member Yvonne Peacock said the current policy of restricting new housing to those with local connections often prevented “desperately needed new blood from coming in and working here”.
She said fostering the economic wellbeing of local communities was made a higher priority by the authority.
Coun Peacock said: “Having a policy restricting new homes to people who permanently live in them is a better policy as many of the barns that have been converted have ended up as holiday cottages.”
National park officers said the next stage of the Local Plan would see a consultation on the possible housing sites. The target is to provide sufficient land for 850 new homes between 2023 and 2040.
Officers are currently assessing and mapping potential sites and updating housing development boundaries around 100 settlements.
A list of potential sites and maps will be issued for public comment in the next few months.