Dales homes crisis to continue despite plans for new building

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A STARK warning has been issued by senior officials at a Yorkshire national park that a drive to build scores of new homes will not address an affordable housing crisis blighting rural communities.

The first strategy of its kind came into force yesterday in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the hope that more than 200 properties will be built before 2025.

But managers at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority admitted the vast majority of residents will see no actual benefit from the housing blueprint as they battle to afford to live in one of the region’s property hotspots.

The national park authority’s head of sustainable development, Peter Stockton, said: “We are not pretending that this is going to be a solution to the problem of affordable housing, but it will go some way to addressing it.

“It is the best solution that we have available, but many people will see no difference unless they actually get one of the new homes.”

The new policies will provide a far more proactive approach to addressing the lack of affordable housing, and sets out 29 sites for as many as 236 new homes to be built over the next 13 years. The sites will cater for developments ranging in size from two houses to as many as 30.

The need for new homes was identified as the most pressing issue to preserve local communities amid an intense demand for second homes. The Yorkshire Dales has weathered the economic downturn and an average home now costs £287,180. But a quarter of all incomes for the national park’s 10,000 households average just £16,264, with the local economy centred on the relatively poorly paid farming and tourism sectors.

The new approach will be the first time that an over-arching planning blueprint has been created to pinpoint specific locations for development since the national park was created in 1954.

A shortlist of sites for housing was finalised after landowners were asked to come forward with potential locations. But each development will still need to obtain planning permission from the national park authority.

The authority’s chairman Carl Lis, who was re-elected yesterday for the fourth year running, said: “Our new housing policy remains, unashamedly, one of trying to support those who need to live or work in the national park. As well as allocating new sites for housing, we have widened the definition of ‘local need’ so that more local households are eligible for housing.

“We have also increased the number of settlements in the national park where barns can be converted to houses, or where brownfield land can be developed for new housing, to meet local needs. Our focus now will be to get on with working with landowners, house builders and parish councils to get new houses on to these sites.”

The national park authority had faced a wave of opposition to the strategy amid concerns the famous landscapes would be gravely undermined by new developments. Half of the new properties will be affordable homes to rent or buy, probably through the involvement of a local housing association. The remainder will be made available on the open market with a legal agreement restricting their occupancy to people who need to live or work in the national park.

But a Government planning inspector, David Vickery, rejected four sites that would have provided a total of 10 new homes for local people in Aysgarth, Low Row, Muker and Thornton Rust.

Councillor Lis claimed the decision was “very disappointing” as the homes would not be built in some of the remotest parts of the national park where the need for affordable properties was often the greatest.