THE leaders of a concerted drive to arrest population and community decline in a national park have hailed decisions to approve two housing schemes.

Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority unanimously backed proposals to build five affordable homes for sale in Bainbridge, Wensleydale and four affordable homes in Langthwaite in Arkengarthdale.

A meeting of the authority’s planning committee heard members describe the Langthwaite scheme as “a beacon” which could be replicated across the national park, which has high house prices relative to earning potential for many young families.

It will be the second instance of a community-led housing scheme in the national park.

Members told the committee the proposals’ approval represented a huge breakthrough following years of frustration over the lack of affordable housing in the area.

Authority member and leader of Richmondshire District Council Yvonne Peacock told the committee while factors such as job and school availability were important in attracting young families to live in the area, the key element was affordable housing provision.

She said: “There are many local people who want to live and work in the national park who would not be eligible for a council property to rent and they cannot afford to rent on the open market or buy any of the market houses.”

Stephen Stubbs, chairman of Arkengarthdale Parish Council, told members “a Dale without the presence of young families does not have a future at all”.

Both schemes were permitted due to “a proven local need for affordable housing”.

John Blackie, who has led The Upper Dales Community Land Trust scheme at Langthwaite, said young families had been voting with their feet because they were unable to afford to live in the area.

He said while the local leading industries, agriculture and tourism, were not the best paid sectors, house prices in the national park were being pushed up by demand from those wanting holiday homes. The Upper Dales county councillor said: “Today we have given two permissions of huge significance. We really are trying to fight back and hang on to the lifeblood of the Dales – young families.”

The authority’s development champion Jim Munday said big challenges remained to increase housing supply in the park. He said: “We need more landowners to make sites available on the edge of towns and villages for affordable housing.”