Yorkshire Dales National Park custodians urged to take bold action to maintain communities

Askrigg in Wensleydale. Photo: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The custodians of the Yorkshire Dales National Park have been urged to take bolder action to maintain its communities, as it emerged a plan to make it easier for young families to live there was a distance off being achieved.

A report to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has concluded while the majority of its key objectives had been met over the past year, affordable and ‘local market’ housing completions were well below the minimum target.

The document states while the authority has granted planning permissions for 235 affordable or local market homes since 2013, only 115 were completed over the same time period, some 23 per cent below the target.

The report comes just a week after the authority’s planning committee rejected a young couple’s request to convert a barn at Hawes to enable them to live and work on their family’s farm.

The Hawes parish representative, Jill McMullon, told the committee: “What is the point of the national park making a priority of retaining and attracting young families to the Upper Dales, shouting this from the roof tops, and then coming forward with a report which seems to go out of its way to scotch the aspirations of a couple and their children to live in our community for the rest of their lives?”

However, planning officers stated the barn was in open countryside and was a “heritage asset which makes a positive contribution to the landscape in an area that is readily accessible by visitors walking the Pennine Way”.

Councillor Yvonne Peacock, leader of the Conservative group on Richmondshire District Council, said it was imperative the park authority took steps to reverse the continuing failure to provide homes that young, local residents could afford, and not just ones to rent.

The former member of the park authority said urgent action was needed, rather than waiting until the Local Plan, which out planning policies and identifies how land is used, has been adopted.

She said: “The national park authority will not see its target met unless it looks to be more bold and use the powers they have already got, rather than hiding behind the Local Plan.

“They are always following the Local Plan to the absolute letter. If young people want to build a house on an exception site they should be allowed to.”