Sir William Worsley, chairman of the Hovingham Estate near Malton which has been in his family’s ownership for 450 years, is among a group of commissioners who have published a new report which makes a series of hard-hitting recommendations on how to address the “missing generations” of young people in rural North Yorkshire which is estimated to have left a £1.4bn hole in the county’s economy.
One of the key recommendations of the report is that each of the 730 parishes in rural North Yorkshire should build five houses over a 10-year period to create 3,650 new homes in the area. The report states that 40 per cent of the new properties must be deemed as affordable or available to rent.
Sir William believes a new approach is needed to provide affordable housing in a region where low and medium-income families are generally priced out.
In some of the most desirable districts to live in North Yorkshire, the average property costs nearly £400,000 while the weekly wage in the county is just over £530.
“What has happened in Ryedale is that the local authority has focused on building lots of houses on the edge of market towns,” he said.
“Putting houses in villages is more challenging. If you are building two or three houses, it will be a local builder not a national building firm.
“But my belief is that villages can take more houses providing that they are built to a standard that fits in with the existing houses.
“It is a more complicated and more difficult way of doing things in some respects but if you were to build five houses over a 10-year period in all the villages – as Harold McMillan did in the 1950s – you would go some way to keeping rural communities viable.”
The commissioners’ report notes that “there is sometimes fierce opposition from local communities to more development” – in part because of worries new properties will not be in keeping with traditional stone houses that make up much of North Yorkshire.
But it adds that they believe their proposal to gradually add more properties across every parish would allow for sensitive development in keeping with existing homes while allowing space for new arrivals to reinvigorate communities and keep key services like schools and shops alive.
Sir William said: “If your beautiful villages just become havens for wealthy or relatively wealthy people, that misses something. It is important to have a balance.
“Everybody is keen on affordable housing but ‘just at the other end of the village’. The point is the affordable housing shouldn’t stand out as affordable housing. In Hovingham, we have experience of doing this. The estate’s policy has been to build little and often to keep it a living and thriving community. It has been very successful.
“More rental property also gives people increased flexibility and is a very important way of helping housing provision.”
He added: “You need to bring new blood into a community. The challenge we have found is bringing young people in. You get a lot of people who sell their home in the South for a lot of money and buy a house in a pretty village up here. They are very difficult for working young families to compete against.
“It is extremely important that we work very hard to keep working young families in our communities.”
The report said that proper engagement with local communities about house-building plans is vital.
“The Commission heard evidence of where the local community have been supportive of development, and the level and quality of consultation is very important. Consultation must happen early, and examples of successful housing developments elsewhere should be showcased,” it said.
Extra tax on second homes mooted
Introducing a new tax on second homes in North Yorkshire could help fund increasing the availability of affordable housing, the commission’s report has suggested.
Sir William said such a move would need careful consideration but could prove beneficial.
“In the early days of council tax, you got a discount if it was a second home as the argument was you were taking fewer council services,” he said.
“We are arguing you should be paying an addition if you are not using the house and it should go towards the provision of affordable housing. You might have your holiday home but actually you should be contributing to keeping local people on the ground.
“It would be an addition to the council tax. We are not talking about something that is extortionate - it has got to be sensible and appropriate. But this would help provide housing for local people.”
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