A drive to attract young families to live in rural Richmondshire will continue to be among the top priorities for a council, its new leader has confirmed.
Councillor Angie Dale said the coalition-run Richmondshire District Council would actively pursue the target of reversing an exodus of people aged 18 to 44 from villages in the 1,319sq km district, and in particular in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The leader of the Independent, Liberal Democrat and Green administration was responding to a question from her predecessor, Tory Councillor Yvonne Peacock, about the authority’s commitment to strengthening rural communities.
Cllr Peacock told a full meeting of the authority her administration had agreed in February to add £20,000 to Attracting Families initiative, between Richmondshire, Craven, Eden and South Lakes councils and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, to help tackle the issue.
She said the initiative included a range of practical steps, such as supporting affordable housing, as well as promoting the benefits of living in villages.
Cllr Peacock said: “It is really important to the national park area. This is the nearest we can get to actually making a difference.”
She added schemes to ensure there were five or six affordable houses in every village, rather than focusing on large housing estates in towns, would “make all the difference” .
Richmond councillor Stuart Parsons said every single in Richmondshire is suffering from the loss of their families and he wanted the authority to tackle the issue across the whole district.
Swaledale and Arkengarthdale member Councillor Richard Good said attending the closing ceremony of Arkengarthdale School, which closed due to low pupil numbers, left him in tears.
He said: “It was a terrible thing. We can’t afford to have any more of those situations so we must support our rural areas in any way we can.”
Cllr Dale said she would attend an Attracting Families meeting next week.
She said: “Regarding Attracting Families we are very much on board. I think you’ll find everyone in this room is as supportive as the other administration in pushing the Dales forward.”