The details of a long-awaited Local Plan, which was thrown open to public consultation yesterday, appeared to put the National Park Authority on a collision course with the large estates that manage much of the property within its boundaries.
The document, the first of its kind to be produced for a decade, will influence decisions on planning for the next 15 years.
It proposes a move away from static caravans within the park’s 554 sq miles, in favour of so-called “glamping” accommodation such as pods, yurts and teepees, as well as tents and chalets on “small scale and sensitively designed and located” developments.
The authority says that nearly three-quarters of caravans and chalets currently within the park are not available for public hire and are being used as main homes, second homes or holiday rentals for “prolonged periods of residence”.
It also says touring caravan and campsite pitches have reduced over time, to be replaced by static units. They are the only types of tourist accommodation to have declined in number, and the report proposes a ban on developments that would kill off any more facilities.
Chris France, director of planning at the National Park Authority, acknowledged that some estate owners would not welcome the proposals.
“As the consultation begins, the main issue we are expecting to debate is whether we’ve got that balance right between protecting a national asset and allowing people to live and work in it,” he said.
“The North York Moors is very much about large landowners and big estates who have a lot of economic input into the park, and we know some of those estates are saying that we haven’t got it right.
“They still want more flexible policies on tourism and on housing provision. But we think we’ve listened to their concerns early on in the process.”
The plan proposes building at least 29 new houses a year – a total of at least 500 during its lifetime – within the park boundaries and centred on Helmsley, which it designates a “local service centre” and in larger villages such as Osmotherley. But it says the homes must be permantly occupied.
“We’re looking at more housing development, but it is housing that is either going to be for local needs or for principal residents,” Mr France said.
“What we’re trying to do is to stop new houses becoming second homes and holiday homes.”
The report says a relaxation of housebuilding restrictions is vital to arrest a fall in the park’s population of more than four per cent in the current decade.
“The change here is recognising the declining population that both the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales have suffered, the lack of affordable housing, and the fact that local people are leaving the area, and trying to do something about that.
“We’re not going to open up the floodgates to building in the National Park. But we do recognise that there are suitable sites in some of our larger villages where we could accommodate up to five houses on single sites. Prior to this our policies have just been about allowing infill building in single blocks,” Mr France said.
“It’s about delivering for our local communities, the essential developments that they need to live in a deeply rural environment that’s got all those challenges.”
Paul Fellows, head of strategic policy at the Park Authority, called the plan “a significant milestone”. He said: “It covers everything from new affordable homes to protecting our dark skies, providing holiday accommodation and supporting sustainable communities.”