Young people in rural parts of Yorkshire are “caught in a trap” owing to a critical lack of affordable housing and a digital gulf with towns and cities as the countryside becomes increasingly dominated by an ageing population, a national park chairman has warned.
Carl Lis, who leads the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, has acknowledged urgent action needs to be taken to address the growing divide between urban and rural communities, as a report published today has highlighted how rural areas are blighted by poor health and deprivation.
Almost 10 million people in the UK live in areas of England defined as rural. This number is increasing and the population in these areas is growing older, the report said.
It pointed to risks in rural areas, include the outward migration of young people and inward migration of older people, who tend to have greater health and social care needs.
Mr Lis said: “The simple truth is it’s all too easy to assume people in rural areas are well-heeled but the simple fact is that, certainly for young people, is they are caught in a trap.
“The wages in rural areas aren’t brilliant and houses cost an awful lot of money. There is deprivation in terms of people trying to get onto the housing ladder.”
Mr Lis said the authority was trying hard to create as much affordable housing as possible to tackle the growing issue, including adopting new planning policies to make it easier to convert barns into housing for local people.
He said: “It’s a problem, there’s no question about that. The main issue we have currently got is our population average is getting older and older because young people just simply can’t afford to remain in the Dales and can’t afford to get a house and that is something right at the top of our list in terms of priorities.
“I welcome any report that highlights that we have got issues in rural areas. Anything that can be done through a report such as this to help in these areas is for the good.”
Ena Dent, chairman of Rosedale Parish Council, said poor mobile phone coverage and limited broadband was a particular problem in areas of the North York Moors National Park.
She said: “Why would young people want to live in these areas if there is no communication? Why should they be penalised because of where they live? In this day and age it’s a priority and it’s time something was done about it.”
Yorkshire's housing crisis
Figures show the average full-time worker in Yorkshire needs a pay rise of 64 per cent just to afford a mortgage on a typical home in the region.
According to the National Housing Federation’s Homes Truths 2016/17 report, those earning less than £39,811 a year are now priced out of buying the average home in the area. Local salaries have failed to keep up with house prices, meaning the average home in the region – costing £174,171 – is now more than seven times the average regional income of £24,284. The situation is worst in the Harrogate district, where the average house price of £305,442 is 11.3 times the average local salary of £26,983.