Young tenants move into affordable housing in Dales village of Askrigg as historic property is converted for the first time
Wensleydale charity the Askrigg Foundation has renovated two flats and a cottage in an historic property for the benefit of those priced out of the market.
Tenancies have now been awarded and the three properties are protected from being sold on in perpetuity, meaning they will always remain available for rent.
The project will boost the viability of hospitality businesses in Askrigg, as two of the new residents work in local pubs.
One of the flats has been taken by Richard McGuinness, a chef at The King's Arms, while Courtyard Cottage is occupied by barman George Handley son of The Crown Inn's landlady, and his girlfriend Abbey Walker, an engineer and part-time student. The third property is let to Helen Hargrave, who works as a teaching assistant at Wensleydale School.
The one-bedroom flats cost just £325 per month to rent and the two-bedroom cottage, which has a garden, is £475.
The Askrigg Foundation's trustees were able to press ahead with the restoration of the building in the Market Place they have owned since it was bequeathed by a local vicar in the 1970s thanks to support from a Richmondshire Council fund aimed at bringing affordable housing schemes to fruition.
The property had fallen into disrepair, with part of the roof exposed, and had been underused for several years. As part of the project, a shop unit on the ground floor has been taken over by a group of 17 local artists to run as a trading co-operative.
Richmondshire Council provided a series of grants, including £6,000 towards the start-up costs, £18,000 for feasibility work and £150,000 in capital investment.
However, demand for the properties was not as high as the volunteers expected, and chair Elizabeth Fawcett believes the situation highlights continuing inequalities in the local housing market. Applicants from the parishes of Askrigg and Bainbridge were prioritised.
"The opportunity to do this came from the council's housing fund, and that grant gave us the impetus - it saved the building, as otherwise we would have had to sell it. It paid for new wiring and plumbing, and they really are beautiful properties now.
"I think around here the gap is for affordable family homes with three or four bedrooms, rather than smaller flats for rent. My daughter lived with us until she had saved up to buy a place in Leyburn rather than waste money on rent, and I think a lot of young people do this. However, we managed to let them all to people who fitted the criteria."
Courtyard Cottage tenant Abbey Walker, 23, added: "The Foundation creating the two affordable rented flats and the cottage we live in has been a great asset to Askrigg. It has allowed young people to stay in the village rather than moving away to find cheaper housing.
"The house pricing in the Dales for both buying and renting properties is extortionate; George and I wouldn't have had the chance to live around here together otherwise. Due to the reduced rent cost, we are still managing to save for a deposit for the future, with the hope of being able to buy locally. It is great that George has been able to stay within Askrigg, as he was born and has grown up here, and he is now able to stay close to his family and his job in his family's pub in the village. I am still a short distance from all of my own family in Finghall too.
"The cottage itself is amazing and has been renovated wonderfully. The Askrigg Foundation are really proactive and contactable, which you wouldn't find renting in big towns and cities, and nothing is ever too much trouble."