Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority ask for views on future of the area as consultation launched

A complex and contentious debate over the future of England’s second largest national park is set to be brought into sharp relief as its custodians have asked for views whether it should allow no new housing, 500 properties or 1,200 homes to be built on the protected landscapes by 2040.

Residents are being asked for their views to help shape the future of the Yorkshire Dales
Residents are being asked for their views to help shape the future of the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is also seeking opinions on whether it should introduce more controls on second homes and holiday lets, how intensive farming should be and the extent to which the built environment should play a role in reducing carbon emissions.

The results of the consultation will help the authority shape its forthcoming Local Plan, the blueprint for development between 2023 and 2040, but a subsequent consultation will examine where housing should be built.

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The move follows a study commissioned by the authority and Craven, Richmondshire and North Yorkshire County councils, last November which found the park had seen a consistent population decline since 2001, with the largest deficits recorded since 2014.

In 2001, 21 per cent of its population was aged 65-plus, but by 2017, this had increased to 30 per cent, while the size of the core labour-force population has reduced by seven per cent since 2001. In contrast, the size of the 65-plus age-group has increased year-on-year, achieving a 45 per cent growth rate over the 16-year period.

In addition, pre-school, primary school and secondary school age-group populations have all declined since 2001 and particularly since 2010. At mid-year 2017, pre-school populations were at 70 per cent of their 2001 totals.

The study found the Craven, South Lakeland and Richmondshire areas of the park had a ten-year average of just less than 30 new houses being built per year and in Richmondshire the number of homes fell by eight over the period.

However, a total of 146 barns have been converted into homes since 2002 and a further 52 barn units are under construction, with another 85 in the pipeline.

Nevertheless, the study found the number of new homes being built has dropped significantly since 2009.

The consultation comes after members of the authority expressed frustration over finding sites for affordable housing, despite developers agreeing to fund building the homes.

Launching the consultation, chairman of the authority, Neil Heseltine, said: “Although it’s encouraging that new affordable homes are currently under construction in West Witton in Richmondshire and Long Preston in Craven, getting affordable new homes built is still a big challenge.

“The national park is a farmed landscape and we don’t want to lose that. But we know that there are massive challenges facing upland farming, as well as some new opportunities. Those opportunities will require very different types of development.”

The consultation highlights that if there is a push towards 1,190 homes being built in the park by 2040 there would be potential impacts on its landscapes and cultural heritage, but 510 creating more homes, or about 30 a year, had the potential to maintain working age population and local spending. It warns by building new homes and imposing extra controls on who can live in the park could see more schools closing and public transport services lost.

Campaign group Friends of the Dales has stated while it believes there is a need for more housing to be built, new developments should be small in scale, close to existing development and restricted to local residents.

Hawes councillor Jill McMullon said she agreed properties needed extra protection to enable younger, local people to remain in the area, but the housing target needed to be set as high as possible, given the number of housing plans that gained approval due to the stringency of planners.

She said: “There’s no way that as little as 30 houses will sustain communities and services in the area.”