THERE has been a great deal of talk over the last several months about the need to both keep young people and families in the Dales, and to attract new ones to come to the area. Almost exactly the same conversation was taking place 50 years ago.

THE leader column in the Craven Herald of March 1969 was headed ‘Dales Houses’ and it discussed the need to build more houses in the Upper Dales if the communities were survive. The piece ended with the line: “We hope that more houses will be built. Otherwise, a person to be born 60 or 70 years from now will wonder what on earth people were doing in the 1970s.

Meeting on a Saturday, the then Skipton Rural District Council passed a motion to do everything possible to provide more houses in the Dales - particularly to the north of Grassington.

The meeting also agreed to go ahead with tenders for the building of four new houses in Kettlewell.

Councillors were told the village included 14 houses that were shut up for most of the year, used only for holidays and weekends, and that there were eight couples who wanted to stay in Kettlewell, but had been forced to move because of a lack of housing. Councillors agreed they had a ‘moral responsibility’ to provide housing for people who wanted to live and to work in the Dales.

Moving on 50 years and Craven District Council is once again discussing how to attract younger people to Craven. Last year, the council was one of a few local authorities with an interest in the national park to look at a number of ideas to attract younger people, including an increase in council tax on second homes. The proposed increase was unpopular and the whole project put on hold for a while. It has now returned, with councillors set to agree putting aside £20,000 from the council’s New Homes Bonus Reserve money to deliver the recommendations in a ‘Attracting Younger People ‘Action plan’’

The plan has been developed by the district councils, Craven, Eden, Richmondshire and South Lakeland, and the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

It sets out a range of objectives and lists a set of actions relating to better jobs, community services and promotion of the Dales. Some of the proposed projects are intended to be carried out jointly, whereas others, such as enhancing Grassington, and housing sites in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Airton , are down to Craven.

In his report to last week’s Policy Committee, David Smurthwaite, Craven’s head of economic development, says assessing the loss of younger people from Craven and the delivery of the action plan in particular is a ‘significant piece of work’.

He says: “The reasons for the decline are varied, and therefore the action plan tries to take a holistic approach. Some of the actions are shared activities between partners, but others are specific to Craven. Projects such as enhancing Grassington and the delivery of housing sites in Horton in Ribblesdale and Airton have already been to full council and are therefore in a more advanced stage.

“It is intended that the action plan will evolve as actions are completed, and new requirements and opportunities are identified.”

The plan sets out some ambitious targets to be completed across the whole of the national park by 2024.

It includes the building of at least 400 new homes, in a range of tenures, sizes, type and prices. Objectives also include the number and quality of jobs, and to deliver at least one economic development project in each of the district council areas. There will also be improved broadband, and mobile phone coverage .

Vitally, the plan will seek to retain primary schools and GP surgeries, which are considered essential to the long term viability of communities. The plan also calls for a five year programme of measures to promote the national park as a place to live for younger, working ages households.

Each of the five authorities are being asked to contribute £20,000 to a shared delivery fund to support activities such as the holding of workshops, carrying out promotional campaigns and specialist legal advice.

Some areas of work, to do with housing, can be carried out by existing officers, but there will also be the new post of ‘town centre development officer’ to support the economic, community and development in towns and villages.

In his report to councillors, Mr Smurthwaite says there are a number of actions where Craven is currently the lead organisation, or will play a significant role.

They are the delivery of housing schemes in Horton and Airton, including the running of an architectural competition for the site in Horton. Also planned is an assessment of he scale of population and infrastructure needed to retain primary schools in the national park, The council will work with the national park and North Yorkshire County Council - the education authority - to come up with the minimum requirements needed to maintain a viable village school.