Yorkshire Dales boss David Butterworth insist radical approach to park's problems must continue

Radical new ideas have to remain at the heart of decision making in the Yorkshire Dales National Park if its deepening socio-economic crisis can be reversed, the park's chief executive has said.

David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

After a move to take forward a proposed rise in council tax on second homes in the park was “killed off” at a council vote in Richmondshire, park boss David Butterworth pledged the park authority would take a fresh look with local councils at how to attract young families to the area.

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Mr Butterworth did however caution that much of the progress on building new homes and infrastructure to make the park more attractive for families to live and work now relies on market forces.

“I hope the Richmondshire vote will have no bearing on how leaders and communities in the Dales can work together to attract people to live in the Park, and retain those who have grown up here. We all know this isn’t just about second homes,” he said.

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“There is more that we need to do on affordable house building, the extension of broadband and mobile phone communication, developing economic sites, promoting the Dales, trying to protect schools, etc but much of that is outside our direct control and we will have to rely on the market to provide a lot of it.”

The divisive proposal to pursue a council tax hike on second homes within the park was abandoned after a narrow vote against taking the proposal any further by members of Richmondshire District Council on Tuesday.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority was only prepared to seek talks with the Government about the options available for raising the tax on second home owners if the proposal had the backing of all of the park’s eight constituent councils. But after South Lakeland District Council voted in favour of pursuing those talks, Richmondshire councillors voted 13 to 12 against the proposals, while three members abstained.

Carl Lis, the park authority’s chairman, warned that though the tax proposal had been axed, the underlying problems it sought to address persist.

“Empty houses do not make for vibrant villages,” he said. “The dramatically shrunken rolls at some primary schools tell the story most powerfully of all. This issue isn’t going to go away.”

Richmondshire councillor Ian Scott, who represents the communities of Reeth and Arthengarthdale and voted against the proposal after Reeth Parish Council made known its unanimous opposition, said: “Broadband is the biggest issue, for me, to attract families to the Dales. Until that comes along it is not going to attract young people.”

Mr Butterworth said: “From today we go again in terms of what we can do. Finding good men and women willing to work alongside us to crack on to do the best for these communities.”