A series of recommendations to a meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority on Tuesday includes extending the area restricting who can live in new housing to the entire national park, to prevent properties subsequently becoming second homes, holiday letting businesses or retirement homes.
As part of the authority’s drive to attract young families to the area and create conditions to stop younger people leaving the Dales, members of the authority will also consider making the criteria for living in new homes more favourable to attract new households bringing their businesses with them.
Other recommendations include only allowing conversions of the national park’s thousands of traditional barns for holiday letting as part of farm diversification schemes.
Park authority member and Wensleydale farmer John Amsden said while measures to enable locals to remain living the area were to be welcomed, he was more concerned about how the current rules were being applied.
He said: “There’s no consistency in the planning. Something is allowed in one area and not the other. You have got to be fair to everybody.”
The recommendations follow years of often bitter debate between groups concerned about protecting the viability of communities and others determined to protect the 2,179sq km area’s unique landscapes and cultural heritage.
After a spike in house prices in parts of the national park this year, with properties in the northern dales selling for up to 20 per cent more than in 2020 partly due to demand from people wanting second homes, concerns have mounted over the area becoming more unaffordable than ever for locals.
In April, an authority meeting heard there was increasingly clear evidence rising numbers of people were buying properties as an investment rather than as somewhere to live and work.
Members were told 3,100 of the national park’s 12,000 properties were now holiday lets and second homes, and the pandemic had accelerated a trend for rural relocations among wealthy and retired people.
An officer’s report to the meeting on Tuesday states a public consultation for the upcoming national park Local Plan saw some areas of consensus over housing policies, but more areas where there was no common view.
It states restricting occupancy of new homes to households working in the park or moving here to work, newly forming households and ones needing more suitable accommodation prevents properties from becoming second homes, holiday lets or retirement homes.
The report adds: “A side effect of the policy is that these properties tend to sell at a price 15 to 20 per cent below their open market equivalent. This price discount can be helpful to local households trying to buy housing in the park.”
Similar housing targeting strategies are already being used in the North York Moors, Peak District, Dartmoor, Lake District and Exmoor local plans, some of which also have a principle residency clause to prevent second home and holiday home use.
The report states members of a steering group examining the issue “felt strongly that a principal residence restriction should be one of the preferred options in the new Local Plan”.
The steering group also concluded to tighten restrictions over the use of barn conversions as demand for holiday lets was “being more than sufficiently met by conversions of existing homes for sale”.
It found traditional building conversions should only be permitted for holiday letting where they would form part of a farm diversification scheme, directly supporting the viability of a farm business.