IN ONE of the most important moves in its 50 year history, the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been given official backing for its controversial plan to limit most new property development to the building of affordable housing for local people.
In a landmark judgement, the park authority's plan - aimed at slowing the drift of young country people to the towns - has been given Government approval to ensure that locals will have the choice of most new building - and even conversions of older properties like barns.
Government planning inspector William Carlow has given official backing to the park authorities new restricted occupancy policy that will prevent new housing from being bought as second homes or as holiday lets.
Instead, nearly all new homes - including barn conversions - will be built to meet demand from local people and will be at more affordable prices.
Park officials see this as a major breakthrough in the fight to stop local people being forced from their villages - often where their families have lived for many generations - by soaring property prices driven by wealthy incomers.
The inspector agreed that any houses to be built within the national park in the future should be smaller - and therefore less costly - be located in villages with services and be sold with restricted occupancy.
Peter Watson, the park's head of planning, commented: "The main thrust of the inspector's report is that he supports the authority's idea of limiting new housing development to that which is needed by local people.
"At the moment, most house building in the Yorkshire Dales National Park is open market - meaning anyone can buy it.
"There is no logic in meeting open market demand because we can't build enough houses to bring prices down to levels affordable for local people without destroying the landscape. So the obvious approach is to build homes only for people who work here.
"There are something like 10,000 houses in the National Park and most have no occupancy restriction on them so anyone will still be able to own one because the policy will only apply to new homes.
"The intention is to give local people who might otherwise have to move to get on the housing ladder the opportunity to do so within the park."
A similar restrictive occupancy policy was overturned by the last government in 1996.
The inspector's report also supported the authority's policies to facilitate the creation of more and better-paid rural jobs and to provide the buildings to house them.
Mr Watson said: "The two policies - restrictive occupancy and better employment opportunities - working together should enable more people to stay within the National Park rather than leaving to find work and affordable housing elsewhere."