COUNCILLORS have backed an initiative to attract and retain families and young people in rural Richmondshire.

The district council is working with partners across the Yorkshire Dales to develop an action plan to tackle the long-standing problem of young people leaving the area.

The authorities want to see more young people set up homes and find employment in the Dales to boost the sustainability of local services such as schools, healthcare, shops and businesses.

Four years ago, the district council hosted a rural summit that looked at a number issues such as housing, access to services and employment.

Since then work has been undertaken on affordable housing improvements and a Richmondshire Economic Action Plan produced.

The plan is looking at; increasing the levels of new house building; broadening the type and tenure of new homes; identifying and delivering new employment sites; delivering economic regeneration projects; creating better broadband and mobile telephony; creating a higher quality cultural offer; and marketing the district and the national park as a place to live and work.

Council leader Yvonne Peacock said: “The issue of the falling working-age population is most pronounced in our sparsely populated parishes.

“We want to see that reversed and bring more young people and families into the areas to live and work.

“At the moment, we can see the reasons for this decline as poor access to higher paid work, lack of affordable housing, and remoteness for essential services.

“But we recognise that working in just one area will not arrest this trend – we need to tackle these issues collectively and joining with other local authorities and the National Park is a key factor in doing this.”

Members of the authority’s corporate board will look at the action plan at a future meeting.

It is being developed with Craven, Eden and South Lakes District Councils and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Cllr Peacock said: “We are already doing a great deal as a local authority – we have new affordable housing schemes opening, we are helping local businesses employ apprentices and obtain grants; and we are promoting the area as a destination to live, work and visit.”