THE reaction to The Yorkshire Post’s special series on the future of the Dales reveals not only the public’s wider appreciation of this National Park, but frustration that it has taken a proposed council tax hike on second homes to highlight myriad social and economic challenges facing the area.
Even though the current consternation has been driven, in part, by an ageing population and shortage of dynamic new jobs in rural areas that might – just – meet the ambitions of younger people, especially those who don’t intend to pursue a career in farming, it has been at least 20 years in the making.
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The reason? Successive governments shortchanging the countryside because they don’t understand the rural economy, the cost of providing essential services in remote areas and why the day-to-day policy issues are very different to those encountered in urban areas.
Yet, while the response of Theresa May’s government will be to highlight the feasibility study into the reopening of the Skipton to Colne railway, this announcement, though welcome, needs to be seen in a wider context. If approved – and there are no certainties – it will benefit the western side of the Dales. It will not necessarily help the rest of the area where bus services are so sparse in places that they’re dependent on the goodwill of volunteers.
As such, local, regional and national politicians need to remember that the single issue of rural transport, for example, is crucal to all sections of society, whether it be the young accessing jobs or the elderly being less prone to loneliness, and change the policy direction of travel before it is too late.