National Park bosses fear homes policy will harm countryside

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The number of affordable homes to be built in the Yorkshire Dales is set to be slashed by half because of changes in policy, warnings were made yesterday.

New housing rules introduced by the Government which regulate how many affordable homes should be built by developers proposing small housing schemes have been watered down following concerns but bosses in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors national parks said yesterday concerns about the revised plans still remain.

Critics have said it is vital people who live and work in rural communities - where many traditionally earn lower wages and are priced out of the housing market - have access to homes they can afford to ensure the viability of the countryside.

Peter Charlesworth, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said yesterday: “It’s not good news for the future viability of local communities who are already under severe pressure but we have no option but to accept these changes in national policy and try to make the best of it.”

He added: “Thirty sites in the National Park are allocated for housing and these were originally expected to yield up to 115 new affordable homes.

“But the new changes - even taking into account the lower threshold for National Parks - mean that we can require affordable housing on only five of the 30 sites, which will provide only 50 affordable homes.”

The changes mean local planning authorities no longer have the power to insist the same proportion of planned new homes should be built as affordable housing on small sites. Previously, in the Yorkshire Dales, half of all the houses built would have been affordable homes.

Initially it was proposed developers should not have to provide affordable housing on sites where fewer than 11 houses were to be built. Following protests, the Government gave national parks, and some rural areas, the option of having a lower threshold of six.

Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority say they have “very reluctantly” agreed to adopt this lower threshold, which means developers will not have to build affordable housing on plots with fewer than six houses.

Yesterday, the North York Moors National Park Authority also said it was opposed to the changes saying although the affected building schemes were small in scale they offered housing which played a significant role in ensuring locals, particularly the young, could afford to stay in the communities where they grew up.

It fears the policy: “will simply exacerbate the high level of affordable housing needs in the National Park.”

Chris France, director of planning at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “The reasons we put forward in objecting to this change are now clearly being seen in the lost opportunities for us to provide the homes that our local communities so desperately need.”

Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, recently confirmed the Government’s intentions in the House of Commons. He claimed its new affordable homes policy for smaller housing sites would provide a boost for both small and medium house-builders.