Opportunities to ease an affordable housing crisis already exist in the Yorkshire Dales National Park but a deadlock is stifling attempts to address the problem.
After recent criticism for rejecting three separate barn conversions because their redevelopment into housing would damage the character of the landscape, Dales authority chairman Carl Lis has sought to clarify that the National Park is striving to help young people both stay in and move into the area.
Last week, plans to convert three barns near Appersett, Hawes and Grinton were rejected following a tense planning committee meeting which opened up a divide between members.
Mr Lis said the authority had received “a fair bit of stick” locally over those decisions.
“However, we are approving the vast majority of barn conversion applications - 100 approvals, against eight refusals over the past three years,” he said.
“These latest applications were refused simply because they involved field barns out in the open countryside, away from the road.”
A major problem affecting the availability of new homes in the Yorkshire Dales is a delay between the park authority allocating housing sites and approving barn conversions and housing developments, and action on the ground.
Sites have been allocated for 180 new homes across the National Park, including two sites in Hawes for 21 homes and three sites in Reeth for 16 homes, while planning permissions for new homes reached a ten-year high last year.
Mr Lis said: “There are more than 200 permissions for houses that haven’t yet been built. All of these permissions and sites have been published on our website to try to bring them to the attention of potential developers.”
Addressing the sites that have been allocated for housing specifically, Mr Lis said: “We are actively urging the landowners to bring forward schemes to develop these sites, which are sustainably located near to shops, schools, community facilities and public transport.”
The park chairman added that barn conversions can make “a small contribution” to the supply of new housing but they are not cheap or quick to complete, and will not be affordable on re-sale.
Only two of the 100 barn conversions that have been approved by the authority in the last three years have been completed.
With land allocated for housing and permissions in place for new homes to be built, Mr Lis said the National Park does not have to choose between conserving the landscape and providing more affordable housing for younger people.
He added: “We can play our part in ensuring the evolution of our communities, but I do think we need to remember that all of us are only short term custodians of this unique landscape and we damage it at our peril.
“We can surely be the generation to leave the environment in a better condition than that which we inherited.”
HOUSING PLANS ARE BEING APPROVED
As reported in The Yorkshire Post’s Dales in Crisis series, a lack of affordable homes in the Yorkshire Dales means the future sustainability of its smaller rural communities has been questioned.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s role in addressing those problems has also come in for scrutiny but Mr Lis said it had taken decisions recently that should make a difference.
He said: “We are working closely with the local district councils responsible for housing, and have recently approved developments in West Witton, Bainbridge and Langthwaite. These schemes contain genuinely affordable homes.”
Following recent barn conversion projects being turned down by the authority, he urged anyone thinking about a Dales barn conversion to contact the authority first for advice on whether it fits with “locational aspects” of park policy.