“Last chance” push to reverse exodus of young people from Yorkshire Dales revealed

The Pennine Way above Horton in Ribbledale.

A concerted drive to attract younger families to live in the Yorkshire Dales National Park represents the last roll of the dice for numerous communities, leading councillors have warned.

A meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority heard it had become “absolutely critical” that the initiative, which aims to reverse an exodus of young people from the protected area, succeeds.

Members approved an action plan and agreed to inject £20,000 into a joint campaign fund with Richmondshire, Craven, South Lakeland and Eden district councils to help remove barriers to young people living in the area and to share understanding over the range and scale of issues.

The main objectives of the Attracting Younger People initiative before 2024 include building at least 400 homes, increasing the number and quality of jobs, enabling at least one significant economic development project in each district and securing high quality mobile and broadband services.

Members said other crucial elements of the scheme included retaining access to local services like primary schools and GP surgeries and promoting the national park as a viable place to live for younger, working age households.

The meeting heard concerns that the benefits of the initiative would not be evenly spread and much of the effort to attract businesses would be in the southern area of the park. Some members also expressed concerns the initiative could be fighting a losing battle.

The park authority’s chief executive David Butterworth warned members of the scale of challenge ahead, saying the scheme included an attempt to counter “extraordinary market forces” over housing and other community-changing decisions being made by accountants.

However, park authority member Yvonne Peacock, who is also Richmondshire District Council’s leader, said inaction over depopulation was no longer an option.

She said: “For far too long we have spent time doing a little bit here and a little bit there. We have a huge problem, we know by our schools. This has got to work, because to me it is the last chance we have got.”

Fellow member John Blackie said the severity of the situation was highlighted by the number of children in most primary schools in the Upper Dales halving over the past two decades.

He said: “This initiative has to succeed, otherwise our sparsely populated, deeply rural communities don’t have a bright future. Whether it will succeed is another question. It will only succeed if all the key players are pulling on the same end of the rope.

“It is the last chance. Without young families in your midst, in these deeply rural communities, there is no chance they will have a bright future. The last thing we want to be is a retirement home for the wealthy.”


  1. 400 houses won’t do it. Not unless they are ALL affordable (ie cheap!), and even then ALL would need to be set aside for families.

  2. I strongly agree with this initiative. I was disappointed when a discussion group of which I am a member was extremely negative about the prospects of success. I remain optimistic and in my capacity as trustee of the Leyburn and Mid Wensleydale Partnership am actively seeking ways of promoting this objective.
    Incidentally, my wife and I arrived in Wensleydale 42 years ago with 4 young children , a move we have never regretted.

  3. And yet it’s virtually impossible to get planning permission to convert a derelict building into a dwelling. Depopulation is a self fulfilling prophecy with the current planning department.

  4. And yet it’s virtually impossible to get planning permission to convert a derelict building into a dwelling. With the current planning department’s mentality, depopulation of local young families is a self fulfilling prophecy

  5. I really hope the plan succeeds, but what exactly will £20k be spent on? Advertising? £20k would barely cover it.

    The YDNPA needs to rethink their planning rules for a start.

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