The severe imbalance between the number of younger and older people living in the Yorkshire Dales is undoubtedly a serious threat to the future of the national park’s communities. As The Yorkshire Post documented in its Dales in Crisis reports last year, over a quarter of residents are aged over 65 and just 15 per cent are under 15; worrying statistics if the area’s beautiful towns and villages are to be sustained in years to come.
Schemes such as The Great Place: Lakes and Dales Project which aims to understand why there are fewer 16 to 34-year-olds than the national average in the area and use arts, heritage and culture as a catalyst for change, and the Dales’ latest five-year management plan, the objectives of which include creating at least 400 new homes and increasing the number of quality jobs, are welcome signs that much-needed action is being taken. Now, financial backing is being sought from four district councils and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority for a further action plan, involving both projects and promotional campaigns, to help reverse the concerning trend of families and young people moving away from the area.
As Gary Smith, the director of conservation and community at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority rightly says, the scale of the challenge should not be underestimated and, with the park’s population thought to be shrinking, there are no overnight solutions. But the ambitious plan is a step in the right direction to try to address the age imbalance – a necessity if Dales communities are to be sustained long into the future.