Yorkshire Dales funding plea for action plan to address national park’s socio-economic problems

An action plan has been drawn up to ensure the sustainability threat to Yorkshire Dales communities are addressed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority in partnership with the area's four district councils - Richmondshire, Craven, South Lakeland and Eden. Picture by Tony Johnson.
An action plan has been drawn up to ensure the sustainability threat to Yorkshire Dales communities are addressed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority in partnership with the area's four district councils - Richmondshire, Craven, South Lakeland and Eden. Picture by Tony Johnson.
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Financial backing is sought to deliver an ambitious action plan to address serious threats to the sustainability of communities in the Yorkshire Dales.

Four district councils and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority are being asked to commit £20,000 each towards the delivery of the plan.

So far, Richmondshire, Craven and South Lakeland district councils have approved their contributions, with a decision pending by Eden District Council in the Cumbrian section of the park.

Ultimately, the plan aims to address the severe imbalance between the number of younger and older people living in the national park.

As documented by the ‘Dales in Crisis’ reports in The Yorkshire Post a year ago, more than one in four residents of the Dales - 26 per cent - are aged over 65 and just 15 per cent are aged under 15.

A perfect storm of socio-economic challenges have driven young families out of smaller rural communities and the park’s population is thought to be shrinking after previous decades of steady growth.

Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority will be asked to commit their share of the action plan funds at a meeting in Bainbridge tomorrow.

With matched contributions from district councils, a £100,000 total would commit authorities to supporting joint activities in the national park. These activities include commissioning research, holding workshops and delivering promotional campaigns.

READ MORE: Action to revive crisis hit Yorkshire Dales communities

In a report to members, Gary Smith, director of conservation and community at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: “The demographic decline is symptomatic of much larger global and national trends, and the scale of the challenge should not be underestimated.

“The action plan sets out a range of practical and co-ordinated steps that can be taken by the participating authorities to try to reverse the trend of families and young people migrating away from the national park.”

Among the objectives of the national park’s latest five-year management plan, which runs until 2024, is to create at least 400 new homes, increase the number of quality of jobs and deliver at least one significant economic development in each of its four local authority districts.

READ MORE: Yorkshire Dales development deadlock is holding up delivery of new homes

Other aims are to connect Grassington, Hawes, Reeth and Sedbergh and their surrounding villages to fibre broadband and 4G mobile phone coverage, to retain access to primary schools and GP surgeries, and to promote the park as a place to live for younger working-age families.

To meet these objectives, since the management plan was adopted, a group involving the park authority and district councils has been working on a more detailed action plan.

With funds in place, this action plan is intended to deliver 15 projects, some in the short or medium term, and others by 2024.

Short-term priorities include commissioning a detailed independent study into the park’s socio-economic conditions and tasking architects with designing new “vernacular” for modern housing to inform reduced building costs and increased sustainability of new builds whilst being sympathetic to the landscape.

Mr Smith said: “The reasons for the decline in the number of younger people are varied and so the action plan tries to take a holistic approach, including measures relating to affordable housing, broadband, economic development, access to services, culture and marketing.”

Some of the actions identified in the plan are already underway, Mr Smith said.

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