Addressing the issues of the affordability and availability of housing in rural areas will be the next task for North Yorkshire’s independent Rural Commission.
Following January’s evidence-gathering session on jobs and the economy, the eight commissioners will sit in February to hear from individuals and organisations on the challenges and opportunities surrounding housing in the county.
Supported by the County Council, the commission consists of experts in rural economics, policy, community-led ventures, agriculture and the environment, business and media.
Chair of the Rural Commission, The Very Rev John Dobson DL, Dean of Ripon, said: “At our last session, we heard a great deal about improving connectivity via better transport, technology and education in relation to supporting jobs and the economy. Housing availability and affordability is also critical issue to the economy in rural areas in how it impacts on the availability of skills and the needs of businesses and employees.”
There are major shortages of affordable homes in large parts of the county’s rural districts, including Richmondshire, Ryedale and Craven, which is among the top five unaffordable areas to live in the Yorkshire and Humber region. This is coupled with an acute shortage of affordable homes in national park areas. Average house prices in Yorkshire Dales around one third higher than county average.
These conditions paint a picture of high relative house prices and low local wages that reflect characteristics of rural areas. The impact on the rural economy is to that the workforces becomes more remote from the work, particularly in lower paid jobs. This has an impact for businesses in terms of the recruitment and retention of workers.
Dean John said: “When we consider housing at our next session we hope to hear suggestions that will help us to address issues around understanding what the housing need is and where it is, planning application processes and affordability and availability of rural housing to build up a hard evidence base for the complex issues underpinning rural housing.
“In the meantime, I thank everyone who has already taken the time to send us evidence and to present to the commissioners and encourage others to grasp this opportunity to help us to support our county’s most rural communities to grow and prosper.”
The commissioners will hear some evidence in person, but will also examine submissions made via email to RuralCommission@northyorks.gov.uk
85 per cent of north Yorkshire is classed as ‘super-sparse’ or very rural. The county’s population density is five times below the national average, with just 76 people per square mile compared to 430, which is the English average.
North Yorkshire has more rural schools than anywhere else in England and continues to fight for a fairer funding formula, but despite those efforts eight schools have closed in the last three years and many more have significant budget pressures.
Affordable rural housing is very limited. Farmers in particular face tough times ahead.
The Rural Commission’s challenge is to examine these issues in a new and innovative way and seek workable solutions to halt and reverse rural decline.
The purpose and aims of the Rural Commission are to:
- Recommend the actions that local partners should take over the next 10, 20 and 30 years in order to maximise the sustainability of the most rural communities in North Yorkshire.
- Improve the evidence base and arguments that will enable local partners to make the case successfully for increased government support to maximise the sustainability of the most rural communities in North Yorkshire.
- The panel is aided by a reference group of key stakeholders to include the leaders of the district councils in North Yorkshire, the 2 national park authorities in the county and North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership.
- The Very Rev John Dobson DL, Dean of Ripon (Chair)
- Martin Booth - experienced community worker, project manager, trainer and social entrepreneur
- Chris Clark - Partner in Nethergill Associates, a business management consultancy – building an eco-hill farm business – member NDNPA
- Heather Hancock – Chair of the Agricultural Forum and former Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority
- Jean MacQuarrie – Editor-in-Chief, Yorkshire Weeklies – JPI Media
- Professor Sally Shortall - Duke of Northumberland Chair of Rural Economy, Newcastle University
- Dr Debbie Trebilco - Director of Community Energy England and of the North York Moors National Park Trust.
- Sir William Worsley - Chairman of the National Forest Company and of Hovingham Estate.