Plans take shape for Arkengarthdale affordable housing

The site of the proposed houses.

Plans are taking shape for a community-led affordable housing scheme in Arkengarthdale.

The dale currently has no social housing and community leaders say this is placing the future of the Dale as a living, working community under threat.

Over the last 30 years the Dale has lost its village shop, Post Office, it twice weekly bank service, its scheduled bus service, its Methodist Chapel and its village institute, while its primary school only has 14 pupils on its roll.

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The Upper Dales Community Land Trust Ltd (UD CLT) was formally registered in October 2017 to address the shortag of affordable housing for locals.

The scheme in Arkengarthdale will be delivered as a partnership between the UDCP and Arkengarthdale Parish Council and it will take advantage of the favourable climate for community-led housing created by the Government as its key strategy for delivering housing in rural areas.

Community-led housing developed by a Community Land Trust remains in the ownership of the local community it serves in perpetuity, and so is beyond the reach of Right to Buy legislation that allows Housing Associations to sell their properties to long standing residents at huge discounts to their current open market value.

The scheme is backed by a housing needs survey of Arkengarthdale conducted in February by its parish councillors hand delivering and personally collecting the survey forms, and attracting a 43 per cent response rate.

The housing survey revealed a need for nine affordable houses for rent in Arkengarthdale now, with more needed in the next four years.

The housing need will underwrite a development of four affordable houses using the current guidelines set out by Government through its Homes and Communities Agency, renamed Homes England in January 2018.

UD CLT last week appointed Native of York, a firm specialist knowledge in developing community-led housing, to take the scheme through the planning application process at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA).

It has also been commissioned to supervise the building of the houses from first shovel in the ground to ridge tile topping off on the site.

Native has drawn up plans for the four houses in its scheme with the intention of embedding them within the local community by providing shared outside private space for the residents, and an area of space shared with the local community and passers-by.

Both the YDNPA and North Yorkshire County Council as Highway Authority have indicated that the proposed site is acceptable for development.

Cllr John Blackie, chair of UD CLT, said the plans drawn up by Native had received a favourable reception from the planning team at the national park authority.

The trust now has the task of assembling the £750,000 capital sum to purchase the site and build the four houses.

It will be assisted by its project officer, Kate Jump, whose post has been funded initially for one year, but with the promise an extension depending on performance, by Richmondshire District Council, who will also fund the fees charged by Native, from the second home stamp duty windfall grant of £450,000 it received last year from the Government that must be spent on community-led housing.

Kate will be seeking grants towards the £750,000 from Homes England and the district council alongside loans from The Charity Bank and similar organisations who finance community-driven schemes.

Councillor Blackie said: “I cannot underestimate the importance of the success of the scheme in Arkengarthdale for the future sustainability of all the deeply rural communities in the Upper Dales.

“Affordable housing to rent in perpetuity is the key component of a vibrant future for these communities, as the Government’s Right to Buy legislation threatens to remove from the rental sector most of the 150 houses belonging to Housing Associations that are located in the Upper Dales.”

He added: “Community-led housing will do far more, far quicker, for the cause of retaining and attracting young families to the Yorkshire Dales National Park than the ill-advised proposals now thankfully dead in the water that the YDNPA put forward to charge penal rates of council tax to second home owners”.

Cllr Stephen Stubbs, deputy chairman of the UD CLT and chairman of Arkengarthdale Parish Council, said: ”The parish council is excited by the speed of events which if they continue to be successful will see us handing over the keys to the first occupants of the new houses in September 2019.

“We are hoping they will be occupied by young people or young families with children as they will send out a message that Arkengarthdale has a bright future, a message that will invite others to stay, and attract new families from beyond the Dale to settle here.

“We very warmly welcome the scheme as it is just what we need to stem the spiral of deeply rural decline of services in the dale.”