ONE of the most significant votes ever taken in the Yorkshire Dales National Park to tackle the decades-old shortage of affordable housing for local people will be decided next week - and is already attracting close attention from other parts of the UK.
The park authority wants to take legal steps to ensure that the vast majority of news housing in the area is intended for rent or purchase by locals, a move intended to prevent more smaller dwellings being converted into weekend cottages or holiday homes by wealthy outsiders.
The scheme has already been given the backing of a Government inspector and next week's vote will be closely monitored by housing authorities in the Scottish Highlands, which suffer similar problems.
Members of the park planning committee will decide on Wednesday (January 19) whether to go ahead with the restricted occupancy policy, which was backed by Government Planning Inspector William Carlow, who held a public inquiry last summer.
In his report on the inquiry, he agreed that any houses to be built within the national park in the future should meet demand from local people and be at more affordable prices.
He said they should be smaller - and therefore less costly - be located in villages with services and be sold with restricted occupancy.
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.
The planning committee members next week will have to vote on whether to accept all the inspector's 150-plus recommendations en masse or to accept some and alter others. Any changes they decide to make will have to be publicised to give members of the public the chance to object to them if they wish.
The YDNPA's radical policy has been brought to the attention of the Scottish Executive's Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm by Highlands and Islands Scottish MP Maureen Macmillan.
She has asked him to investigate the possibility of introducing a similar plan in Scotland, which also suffers problems in keeping rural communities local.
A copy of the Inspector's report is available to the public on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority's website at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk