THE LEADER of a Yorkshire council has warned that rural communities are a generation away from crumbling as young people and families are becoming an “endangered species” in remote areas of the region.
The escalating crisis in the countryside with dwindling numbers of young families who are turning to more lucrative jobs in towns and cities has been pinpointed as a priority by Richmondshire District Council.
The authority’s leader, Coun John Blackie, will deliver a keynote speech this month highlighting the problems which rural communities are faced with amid the erosion of key services from public transport to health provision.
Coun Blackie, who is also the Upper Dales Area Partnership’s chairman, said: “If we do not stem the loss of young people and families, then they will become an endangered species.
“We are only a generation away from seeing rural communities crumbling before our eyes due to the loss of services in these communities.
“This is happening not just in Richmondshire or the Yorkshire Dales, it is affecting rural communities across the country. Young people simply cannot afford the price of a home, and there is little job prospects for them.
“We have to address the issue, and ensure that there is enough to offer them a future in the countryside.”
The Yorkshire Post revealed last month that Richmondshire District Council is spearheading a concerted 12-month drive to provide more affordable housing and job opportunities across vast swathes of the Yorkshire Dales, including Wensleydale and Swaledale, as well as preserving key services.
The council has agreed to take a lead in lobbying regional and national organisations to raise awareness of the acute plight of rural communities. It will also host a conference this year, and is preparing a series of detailed papers on key concerns.
Coun Blackie warned the current situation is unsustainable as the lifeblood is being drained from the Dales, as well as other rural parts of the country. As a snapshot, two primary schools in the Upper Dales had 117 children on their combined rolls 16 years ago, but the figure will have fallen to just 67 pupils next month.
Coun Blackie will deliver the keynote speech at a meeting of the Upper Dales Area Partnership on Wednesday, September 24, in the village of West Burton.
Health officials will be at the meeting to discuss the provision of care including midwifery services while John Moore, the managing director of NyNeT, the community company supervising the introduction of superfast broadband in North Yorkshire, will give an update on the roll-out of the programme.
The meeting, which will be held in West Burton Village Hall from 7pm, will also include updates on services offered by the pioneering Little White Bus scheme, which is a public transport project operated by volunteers, as well as the restructuring of postal services in Hawes.