Many years experience working for country councils has taught me the principle issues that concern local people in the countryside. One such issue is the need to ensure that village shops, pubs, schools and post offices are kept open, in order to maintain the life and spirit of country communities.


It has always been recognised that the best way to achieve this is to allow a steady and limited growth of housing within villages, so that there will always be room for young families, and  villages will not just grow old and die, or be taken over by commuters.


“Village Development Limits” were drawn, so as to direct new housing into suitable sites.


Great care used to be taken to ensure that there was plenty of cheap housing for local people who were less well off. That is why there are so many council houses or ex-council houses in villages.


However, for some weird and wonderful reason, Ryedale District Council has decided to stand these sensible policies on their head.


The old Local Plan has reached the end of its life. So Ryedale has to prepare and adopt a new one – only this time it’s given the grand name: “The Local Development Framework” or “LDF”.


The Council in its draft LDF has adopted policies which involve revolutionary change. Instead of reviewing the “Village Development Limits”, the Council has decided to prohibit ALL new housing in most villages, except affordable housing or houses with a condition prohibiting occupation by anybody who has no local connection with the district.


This sounds like a good idea to encourage affordable housing for local people, but is it? Well, in fact, no! The value of the site is diminished, and the professional opinion is that landowners will be advised to sit on their land and wait until the policy changes. So, this policy will simply stop all new houses in most villages!


Just ten villages will be designated “service villages”, where some new market-led housing development will be allowed. However, the amount of new houses is limited to about 220 a year, and the draft LDF requires that at least 50% of these be built in Malton/Norton, 25% in Pickering and 15% in the other market towns, leaving only 10% for the “Service Villages”.  This averages out at just over two houses a year for each service village!


The LDF has to pass the test of “soundness” at an “Examination in Public”. The Examination was duly held in July and November. It should be no surprise that some local landowners objected. The Inspector has upheld their objections, and declared the LDF to be unsound.


In the circumstances, one might have expected the Council to look again at the policies which were in dispute. No chance! We all know Ryedale, don’t we? This is the Council which is always right and never makes a mistake! Instead of  reviewing the plan, Councillors have lavished praise on the work that  has been done on the LDF, declared their intention of proceeding again with exactly the same policies – only this time they’d do a more thorough job – and treated the inspector with scorn and disdain. They are even taking legal advice to see if they can overturn the inspector’s decision in the courts. Is Ryedale a “listening council”? one might ask.


The alarming feature of this saga is the sheer hypocrisy of a council which, on the one hand, says it wishes to promote the vitality of country communities and, on the other, produces policies which will have the opposite effect. One wonders if they really understand what they’re doing.


One wonders if local residents are going to be happy to be told what part of the District they can live in if they want to buy a new build. Restriction of movement and choice really is a result of the local need housing policy. It’s surprising that even Councillors are happy to be told that, if they currently live in, say, Malton, they won't be allowed to buy a new build in years to come in a village. Ryedale residents  who might want to move to a different part of the District will have to compete for second hand houses with those moving into Ryedale from outside the District.



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