YP Comment: Priced out of rural living

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ESCAPING to the country is a dream for many people, but the spiralling cost of buying a home there has worrying implications for the nature of rural life.

The high cost of living in the countryside as laid bare by the Halifax not only underlines how expensive it has become, but also raises issues about the future of communities.

Yorkshire is one of the most expensive places to leave towns and cities behind. The consequences go to the heart of what makes rural communities tick.

The statistics point to the countryside being at risk of becoming somewhere only the relatively wealthy can afford to live. They also re-emphasise the difficulties faced by first-time buyers. The young are already struggling to get a foothold on the property ladder in urban areas as prices rise faster than wages, and the countryside looks increasingly out of reach.

There are rural areas of Yorkshire that have already seen people born there effectively forced to move away because they cannot afford houses, or where the principal market for empty properties is as second homes which remain unoccupied for large parts of the year.

This can affect the cohesion of communities, hollowing out the close-knit nature of villages and affecting the trade needed to keep valued local shops open.

The threat posed to these rural villages by rising prices is an overlooked consequence of the general increase in housing costs.

There are no easy answers, but if our countryside is to truly thrive and be sustainable in the long run, then people need to be able to afford to live there.