The managers of the Yorkshire Dales National Park have been urged to reconsider some of their policies amid fears that developers are side-stepping measures designed to secure the future of its communities and landscapes.
A meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee heard its policy that enabled developers of small scale sites to provide money towards affordable housing rather than build them could lead to little or no low-cost housing being built in the park.
Increasing affordable housing across the 2,179sq km area is seen as crucial to enable younger people to live in the area, retaining a critical mass of population and maintaining local services following demand from second home owners pushing up property prices to a level beyond which many local workers can afford.
As the committee considered a planning application for eight homes in Austwick, in Ribblesdale, members repeatedly expressed frustration that the developer had suggested he would only consider providing affordable housing on the site after the project was granted consent.
Members said while the developer had proposed providing funding instead of 50 per cent affordable housing on the site, that funding could only be used on the rare occasion a plot became available.
Calling for developers to include affordable houses on all sites, Craven District Council leader Richard Foster said finding alternative sites for low-cost homes was “awkward and expensive”.
North Yorkshire County councillor David Ireton questioned whether the authority needed to revisit its policy to allow developers to provide funding in lieu of affordable homes.
He said small villages in the national park would only ever see proposals for small-scale housing developments, which were not compelled to feature any affordable housing.
Fellow county councillor Robert Heseltine added: “It is a foot in the door approach by the applicant to have his bread buttered on both sides.”
The park authority’s chairman Carl Lis said it was disappointing that a community that needed affordable housing may not benefit from the affordable housing contribution and questioned the ability of developers to insist a planning application was considered before detailing their plans.
He said: “We do need to send the message out that we would encourage any developer to include affordable housing in a development.”
After members also expressed dismay at the lack of environmentally-friendly credentials in the application, Mr Lis said the authority needed to include green measures in its planning strategy.
He said: “Surely we should all these things sorted out before we give approval?
“It is encumbent on us to insist on any application of this sort that the developer does whatever he can to have for example solar panels, to have charging points. We haven’t even got an indication from him as to what his heating system is.”
After members approved the Austwick scheme, the authority’s champion for development management, Jim Munday, said the decision was “very positive news” for the village and the national park as it would generate funding to support affordable housing at other sites.
He added: “Before development commences, further permission will need to be sought for the heating system and we will be working hard with the applicant to make sure renewable energy is installed, in line with the authority’s commitment to address the ‘climate and nature emergency’.”