National Park urges developers to build in the Dales

Swaledale, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. .
Picture James Hardisty.
Swaledale, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. . Picture James Hardisty.
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THE YORKSHIRE Dales National Park Authority has urged developers, builders and housing associations to consider building new homes within the protected park, as it moves to address the housing “crisis” that has caused a mass exodus of young families from the area.

The Yorkshire Post says: Stop resisting housing developers in rural Yorkshire - or villages may not survive

In a new move the authority has written to prospective house builders stressing planning policies, that for decades stifled development in the park in order to protect historic and treasured landscapes, have changed - with the main objective being to increase housing supply.

More open market housing “than ever before” is now set to be accepted, with the message being, if developers put forward high quality plans, “we will approve them”, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman Coun Carl Lis said.

“It’s only right that we get real and accept that in order to get the affordable housing we need, then there has to be an open market aspect to developments,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “We want to nudge builders into action.”

To encourage development, the authority has also complied a list of sites across all 49 towns and villages in the Dales that could be suitable for housing.

Richmondshire councillor John Blackie, who is also a park authority member, and has served on the planning committee for 20 years, said the measures would go some way to reversing the impact of the “mass exodus” of young families from the Dales in recent years, but housing was only part of the “bigger picture” that needed to be addressed to lure them back.

“The National Park has suddenly realised, better late than never, that we need to be less restrictive in planning policy, otherwise there will be no young families in the Dales,” he said.

“But we are at a watershed in terms of the crisis for these deeply rural communities. It’s not just about housing - the local education authorities, the NHS, and economic development organisations in the region all need to play their part.”

The authority said a “more flexible” Local Plan set a target of building 55 new homes in the original boundary of the National Park each year. Last year, 39 homes were built in the Dales, Coun Lis said. Since the local plan was adopted in December last year, proposals have been approved for 79 new homes - 50 of which took advantage of new policies on converting roadside barns to homes.

The Authority has set a target of building 55 new homes in the original boundary of the National Park each year, which doesn’t include the areas which were designated as part of the extended National Park from August 2016.

As part of its move to encourage development, it has also highlighted sites that already have permission in place, those that are allocated for housing development, and brownfield sites.

“New build housing is now permitted in more towns and villages across the National Park than ever before,” Coun Lis said. “Policies now permit more open market housing than before, making it more financially viable for developers to build the affordable and local occupancy homes that are so badly needed by local communities.

“Affordable and local occupancy housing is also subject to more flexible criteria. The Authority will negotiate on the mix of housing provided on development sites.”

Chairman of the Friends of the Dales, Mark Corner welcomed the move, but said the Authority should adopt “more innovative” approaches to tackling the housing crisis.

“With an average house price of £300,000 in the National Park, a 40 per cent premium above houses in the region outside of the Park, and average incomes of below £20,000, the scale of the affordability challenge is clear,” he said. “We support the Authority in encouraging the building of housing for rent or purchase that is affordable, but real care is needed that we avoid proliferation of open market housing that doesn’t address the issue. We don’t need more second homes.

“Developers seem to have a tendency to agree to the provision of affordable housing as part of a development but then find reasons to wriggle out of commitments.

“As well as nudging others to act we would like to see the Authority itself adopt some more innovative approaches, such as investing itself in land that is used specifically for affordable local housing. The New Forest National Park Authority has done just that and it may well be a model that could be adopted in the Yorkshire Dales.”