We believe that the continuing attractiveness and sustainability of the Dales depend on there being vibrant resident communities, with a diverse population supporting a range of economic and social activity. For such communities to function there must be an adequate supply of housing of different types.
The existing number of houses in the Dales could be sufficient for the size of the resident population. But incomes in the area (where much of the employment is in agriculture, tourism, services, etc) tend to be below average. This means that many properties are unaffordable even to those in essential employment. In addition there is a high percentage of houses used as second homes or holiday cottages and thus not permanently occupied. This means it is difficult, especially for the younger generation, to find suitable housing, with the result that some of them have to leave the area. This in turn leads to an imbalance in the population, schools becoming unviable, economic activity being affected and the quality of social life declining.
We are concerned that, in order to attract developers who find insufficient profit in building local occupancy and affordable houses, there must be a proportion of new open market housing, the future use of which is difficult to control. Nevertheless, in general we support the housing policies set out in the Local Plan 2015-30 of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
- We believe that, in order for local communities to flourish, there is a need for some more housing to be built in the Dales. The location and design of new housing, and the balance of different types of housing, are crucial to both the beauty of the Dales and the health of its local communities.
- We believe that in general, new housing schemes should be small in scale and should be built in or close to existing settlements, so as to minimise the need for travel by car and pressures on the delivery of services.
- We believe that new housing should be restricted to those satisfying a “Local Occupancy” criterion which is regarded as fair and practicable. That designation should continue in perpetuity and the Planning system should make it very difficult to remove it.
- We believe that housing which is affordable to the rural population is the highest priority. “Affordability” needs to be so defined as to be practicable and reasonable.
- We believe that new housing intended to be affordable should normally be built in or close to identified larger settlements, providing access to facilities and services and with public transport options.
- We believe that housing for rent will continue to be the only viable option for many families on low incomes. We deplore the loss of many affordable Council houses through the “Right to Buy” policy of previous governments, and we oppose any future proposals to extend this to other types of housing.
- We encourage innovative funding schemes for the building of new housing.
- We support regulations which require new-build housing to be “zero-carbon” and the development of higher energy-efficiency standards for all housing, including existing stock.
- We believe that fiscal measures, such as the highest rates of council tax and stamp duty, should be used to discourage the use of properties as “second homes”.
- We believe that tourism is a vital component of the Dales economy, and that holiday cottages for short-term rent are integral to this. Such existing properties are privately owned, and it is difficult to prevent further properties acquired on the open market being turned to such profitable use. However, the proportion of such properties in an area may result in the resident community becoming less socially viable, and we believe that means should be sought to prevent new properties and conversions being turned to such use, except where this is in support of an existing business or farm diversification.
- We accept that many former agricultural buildings are no longer suitable for such use, and that conversion for residential use is sometimes a viable option. However, we believe that control of the location and design of such conversions is crucial to the continuing attractiveness of the Dales. The potential adverse visual impacts and ‘sub-urbanisation’ of the landscape must be resisted by the Planning system.
What we will do
- We will continue to scrutinise the lists of planning applications, and will raise objections to proposals which run counter to the policies outlined above. In particular:
- We will oppose proposals which detract from the attractiveness of the Dales or provide insufficient accessibility to local services.
- We will oppose schemes which seek to diminish the proportion of housing subject to a Local Occupancy condition.
- We will oppose proposals to extend the “Right to Buy” properties provided at an affordable rent.
- We will encourage and support proposals which will increase the number of affordable homes.
- We will support the development of high energy-efficiency standards in new buildings which avoid unacceptable impacts on the surrounding area.
- We will encourage and support innovative schemes for the building of affordable and local occupancy housing.
- We will seek to ensure that proposals for barn conversions are in sustainable locations and do not result in a cumulative effect which detracts from the experience of the countryside.
- We will encourage and support the use of fiscal measures to discourage the use of houses as second homes.