Devolution for North Yorkshire is more important than for anywhere else, here's why - Mark Casci

If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that priorities are important.  For close to 18 months we have faced intermittent and often severe losses of connection, earnings and commonality.

Now, as we emerge from the worst of the Covid crisis, we must collectively channel our focus on what is important to us as a society going forward.

Having been denied the chance to make our own decisions on our very own movements for so long, the need for greater autonomy for our nation could not be more acute.

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And while devolution deals have been secured for the two most populous areas of Yorkshire, it is now the most sparsely occupied section of Yorkshire that now needs the most attention.

The Yorkshire Dales has so much potential

I will stick my neck out now and say that devolution for North Yorkshire is more needed than in both West and South Yorkshire combined.

A recent report from the North Yorkshire Rural Commission highlighted numerous areas for concern in the region, most notably the fact that the region was failing to hang on to its most important asset, its young people.

Estimates show that if North Yorkshire had the same percentage of younger adults aged between 20 and 44 years old as the national average, there would be an additional 45,551 people living in the county, something the commission’s report says leaves a £1.4bn hole in the county’s economy.

The brain drain of such talent and expertise lies in many areas, most notably the lack of jobs and housing that this particular demographic so desperately needs.

Filey - picture by Tony Freeman

On the latter front, North Yorkshire housing stock is both very expensive and in short supply, two criteria that leads so many young people to start their lives elsewhere. Its digital connectivity, essential for virtually all generations and businesses, is among the worst in the country. And its housing stock, cut off in vast swathes of the county from the gas grid, is reliant on outdated fuel supplies which will be obsolete within a generation.

With the prospect of continued missing generations in North Yorkshire, the prospects can look bleak.

However they need not be, and herein lies a solution that can benefit the entire nation.

North Yorkshire is an area of England that is vast in terms of geography, rural landscapes and diversity. Were you to drive from say Skipton or Hawes towards the west of the county to Scarborough or Filey in the east, you would be looking at a journey of the best part of three hours that would take in the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors and end up with spectacular coastline.

The Dales at dusk.

Forward-thinking leadership in North Yorkshire is now looking to capitalise on this unique asset to make North Yorkshire carbon negative by 2040. The planned carbon capture initiatives for the region can make use of its stunning geography to slash our emissions and create the sustainable, high value and well-paid jobs that the younger generation needs.

Similarly, plans by the North Yorkshire Rural Commission include the building of 3,500 homes, 40 per cent of which should be designated for rental use.

Were these two well-considered areas addressed then suddenly North Yorkshire starts to look like an attractive destination to build a life and career.

What is clear however is that these matters cannot be solved from Whitehall, or from the region’s current governance.

Cruck Barn

The scrapping of the lower tier councils and the switch to a beefed up North Yorkshire County Council is welcome in this regard.

By April 2023 this should be operational, and working in tandem with City of York Council, creating a framework for much-needed devolution to be applied in a move that could be worth £2.4bn over 30 years.

This development cannot come soon enough. If it were up to me it would have happened yesterday.

And while first class leadership will be required to run the county, the benefits could be massive and empower North Yorkshire not only to be Britain’s most beautiful region to become its most prosperous.