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Decision time for “ambitious” five-year plan to boost the Yorkshire Dales

Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will decide whether to approve the new five-year management plan for the Yorkshire Dales National Park when they meet on Tuesday. Picture by James Hardisty.
Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will decide whether to approve the new five-year management plan for the Yorkshire Dales National Park when they meet on Tuesday. Picture by James Hardisty.
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National Park officers are both “ambitious” and “realistic” about what can be achieved to enhance the landscape and tackle the socio-economic challenges in the Yorkshire Dales over the next five years.

The final draft of a new blueprint for the Yorkshire Dales, considered to be “the single most important document for the management of the National Park”, will be put to members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority for their approval on Tuesday.

Through a series of objectives the plan sets out how the authority, working closely with 16 bodies on the plan’s steering group, intends to protect and enhance the landscapes, wildlife, economy and communities of the Dales between 2019 and 2024.

As reported by in The Yorkshire Post’s ‘Dales in Crisis’ series earlier this year, a shortage of affordable homes, an economy that relies too heavily on low paid employment in upland farming and tourism, austerity-hit services and sporadic communications connectivity has forced younger families out of Dales villages and into towns, putting the centuries-old rural way of life at risk.

Sights have now been set on addressing some of those issues, with the new management plan for the National Park including targets that include five-year aims to deliver at least one significant economic development project in each of the Craven, Eden, Richmondshire and South Lakeland areas of the park, and to increase the number and quality of jobs in order to raise the park’s ‘gross value added’ by 10 per cent.

Other targets are to provide at least 20 apprenticeships that focus on skills which are essential for maintaining the National Park’s “special qualities”, to undertake a five-year programme of measures to promote the National Park as a place to live for 18 to 44-year-olds and to support the completion of 400 new homes.

Peter Stockton, head of sustainable development at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said he believes the plan “goes some way” towards addressing the trends that threaten the sustainability of communities.

“The management plan has to do a lot of things, deliver National Park purposes and have regard for socio-economic issues and I think it does that,” he said.

Some 16 bodies, including government agencies, local authorities and representatives of rural estates, farmer and tourism business networks, are part of a steering group that has prepared the plan and will monitor its impact.

Their blueprint includes several “deliberately very ambitious” objectives that the park authority alone does not have sufficient funding to pull off - and the 400 homes target is one of those.

Others include repairing, restoring, and in some cases find new uses for, traditional field barns, particularly in Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and Littondale; to create at least one large “nature recovery area” by 2021; to support the development of rail services and related economic uses along the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle railway, and the reinstatement of other lines to and within the National Park, such as the Wensleydale railway to Garsdale.

These tough targets are included in the plan because the steering group wants to “maintain the current momentum to try to tackle these issues” while also committing to lobby for funding to deliver them.

Mr Stockton said: “We recognise that some of the objectives are ambitious and we are realistic but all these different aspects are in there because they need to be.”

NEW ADDITIONS

Since June, the management plan’s steering group have added a series of new objectives for the next five years.

If accepted by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority on Tuesday, the new aims will be adopted. They include campaigning for the Coast-to-Coast footpath to become a National Trail by 2024, creating strategies to reduce the risk posed by, and the spread of, invasive non-native species and to respond to threats from pests and diseases that threaten the National Park’s environment such as ash dieback.

Other new aims are to reduce litter and waste, raise recycling rates, achieve greater restoration of blanket bog habitats and create a railhead at Horton Quarry.