A BLUEPRINT to address a critical housing shortage in the Yorkshire Dales has been finalised in what has been one of the most controversial eras since the national park was created.
The first strategy of its kind to tackle the lack of affordable homes in the Dales has been published after a Government planning inspector finalised the details.
The report sets out the 29 sites which have been earmarked for as many as 236 new homes to be built over the next 15 years.
But the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s chairman, Carl Lis, admitted there had been a wave of opposition amid concerns the famous landscapes would be gravely undermined by new developments.
The authority received hundreds of submissions opposed to the strategy which the planning inspector, David Vickery, has admitted is vital to addressing the shortage of affordable homes.
Coun Lis said: “We have had a very bumpy ride with the whole process, and there was a huge amount of opposition.
“But without the new homes, communities will die, it is as simple as that.
“People are the lifeblood of the Dales, and the opposition arose because so many people care about the landscape.
“We are faced with a very difficult task, because our primary role at the national park authority is to protect these landscapes.
“But we have a duty to support communities in the Dales, and this is why we have drawn up these plans.
“It has proved to be one of the most controversial issues since the national park was created, but it is also one of the most important issues as well.”
Mr Vickery has accepted the 29 sites for development, ranging in size from two properties to up to 30 homes and potentially providing up to 236 houses.
Half of the properties would be affordable homes to rent or buy, probably through the involvement of a local housing association. The remainder would be made available on the open market with a legal agreement restricting their occupancy to people who need to live or work in the national park.
But Mr Vickery has also rejected four sites that would have provided a total of ten new homes for local people in Aysgarth, Low Row, Muker and Thornton Rust.
Coun Lis claimed the decision was “very disappointing” as the homes would not be built in some of the remotest parts of the national park where the need for affordable properties is often the greatest.
It was revealed in January that isolated Dales communities were in danger of missing out on affordable homes because they were due to be excluded from the strategy.
Coun Lis said: “Members will be very disappointed that the sites have not been included, but it is the communities who will suffer the most as they need the housing.”
The authority’s members will meet on June 26 to debate whether the report by Mr Vickery will be adopted.
The new policies will provide a far more pro-active approach to addressing the lack of affordable housing.
The need for new homes was identified as the most pressing issue to preserve local communities amid an intense demand for second homes.
While property markets have slumped across many parts of the country, the Yorkshire Dales has weathered the economic downturn and an average home now costs £287,180.
But a quarter of all incomes for the national park’s 10,000 households average just £16,264, with the local economy centred on the relatively poorly paid farming and tourism sectors.
The new approach will be the first time that an over-arching planning blueprint has been created to pinpoint specific locations for development since the national park was created in 1954. A shortlist of sites for housing was finalised after landowners were asked to come forward with potential locations.
But each development will still need to obtain planning permission from the national park authority.