TV soap highlights housing price chasm in Yorkshire's rural areas

FOR millions of viewers who tune in every week, it remains one of Britain's most popular soaps which has provided a glimpse of life in rural Yorkshire for nearly 40 years.

However, questions have been raised over whether the vast majority of the much-loved characters of Emmerdale could actually afford to live in the picturesque locations of the long-running ITV soap.

The soaring cost of property in the region's countryside towns and villages has meant that there is a vast gap between the wages and living costs for all but the most affluent families and couples.

The National Housing Federation has claimed that almost two thirds of the characters in Emmerdale would not be able to afford to live in the village because of exorbitant house prices.

New research by the federation, which represents 1,200 housing associations across England, has revealed that 62 per cent of the main characters in Emmerdale would not be able to afford to buy in a typical Yorkshire village in real life.

Pub chef Marlon Dingle, who would earn in the region of 20,000, and factory worker Lizzie Lakely, whose salary would be about 14,000, would both be priced out of the village, where the real life price of a home would be at least 150,000.

Farmhand Andy Sugden would also be priced out of a real-life Emmerdale, given his salary would be about 21,000.

The National Housing Federation's regional manager, Michelle Park, claimed many of those on lower incomes would be pushed into living in cheaper urban areas.

She added: "There is a real life drama being played out in villages across Yorkshire and the Humber.

"The reality is that many people on modest incomes can no longer afford to live in the countryside because of high house prices.

"Village shops, pubs and local services are being put under threat of closure as regular users are forced to move to more affordable urban areas.

"The programme may be fictional, but without more affordable homes local people in villages across Yorkshire and the Humber face a real life drama.

"Just a handful of new homes can make a real difference and ensure we have living, working rural communities."

Ms Park added: "Local authorities in Yorkshire and the Humber need to develop an understanding of the extent of housing need in their area and come up with an action plan to deliver affordable homes."

The federation's study analysed the living conditions and estimated salaries of Emmerdale and revealed a staggering number of characters – 28 out of the 45 researched – would be highly unlikely to be able to live in the village in reality.

In some parts of Yorkshire, the average price of a home tops 240,000, with villages and market towns generally more expensive than larger towns and cities.

The average home in more rural parts of Yorkshire costs 10 times the local income, compared with 7.8 times local income in urban areas of the region.

The National Housing Federation is calling on rural local authorities across Yorkshire and Humberside to support its Save our Villages campaign.

The Yorkshire Post revealed at the start of December that soaring unemployment and savage financial cuts are set to compound the biggest housing crisis in post-war Britain which has left tens of thousands of people across the region priced out of the property market.

The Yorkshire and Humber region is facing up to the starkest situation for affordable housing in more than 60 years as shocking statistics have revealed the chasm between workers' wages and house prices.

The average house price in the region is now 153,736, while the average income in the region is only 19,000.

Prospective house-buyers are faced with a yawning gap between their annual incomes and the money needed to secure a footing on the property ladder.

In North Yorkshire, the scale of the problem is even more acute with average house prices now almost 210,000, while average earnings last year were less than 19,000.

The gross annual income required for a mortgage in North Yorkshire is almost 54,000.

A spokeswoman for Emmerdale said: "Whilst we understand the importance of this campaign, we were not contacted or consulted over this research and the findings do not appear to take into account characters' individual circumstances."

Eight million tune in to show

SINCE it first aired in October 16, 1972, Emmerdale has remained one of Britain's most enduring television soaps.

The long-running series is set in the fictional village of Emmerdale, which was known as Beckindale until 1994, in North Yorkshire.

The programme was initially called Emmerdale Farm before its name was revised in 1989.

The series is rated as Britain's third most popular soap behind Coronation Street and EastEnders, and Emmerdale episodes regularly attract up to eight million viewers.