A CONFERENCE in Skipton looking at why so many young people move away from the Dales has concluded affordable housing is the main issue for 16 to 34 year olds.

Fast internet speeds, good transport links, and jobs and careers were next most important for the age group, as revealed at the two day conference held at Broughton Hall.

Around 100 people attended last week’s event which included motivational speeches from leading figures from the creative industries and rural development.

Part of the Arts Council and lottery funded Great Place: Lakes and Dales, the event revealed the results of six months of research looking into the reasons for the ‘youth drain’ in the rural corridor between Skipton and Grasmere - the area has fewer young people than the national average.

Lindsey Hebden, programme manager, said: “We need to innovate, experiment and be bold to support and nourish the youth culture to help them to flourish. The conference has been inspirational and is the start of a raft of activities aimed at securing a cultural future which will encourage young people to feel it’s a real option to stay, return or move in to the area.”

Suggestions to keep young people in the area, included building relationships between age groups and providing creative hubs for young people to address the issues of lack of space for collaboration, working and leisure. Striving to ensure youth representation and giving young people a voice was another theme.

The conference followed two earlier consultation meetings held in Skipton and Kendal, led by GPLD ambassador, British designer Wayne Hemingway.

He said: “There is a clear recognition that the issues that need tackling are complex and that affordability of housing, the paucity of good public transport and a need for a more diverse cultural offer are key issues that are going to require creative thought from communities, the public and the private sector.

“GPLD can help to facilitate and inspire creative thought. We’re excited to take the work forward through placemaking projects, inspiring discussions and influencing policymakers at local and national level.”

Councillor Richard Foster, leader of Craven District Council, said: “We are already trying to tackle issues of affordable housing and employment in Craven, developing a number of shared ownership homes and increasing the amount of employment land available, but we recognise the need to balance this with preserving our beautiful countryside and cultural landscape.”

See pages 4 and 5.