National Parks facing mass exodus of young people over affordability issues

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the legislation that founded National Parks, the crown jewels of the UK’s beautiful countryside. 

National Parks have brought huge physical, mental and economic good health to the nation, but why, three quarters of a century later are key parts of them appearing to struggle? 

‘Struggle’ is not a term that everyone will recognise. Many of the millions of visitors that head to Britain’s National Parks every year are probably very happy with what they see and do. 

But behind the weekend trips and Instagram filters, there is a hollowing out of rural communities that threatens the long-term vitality of the parks.

A large part of this is due to the increased numbers of holiday lets and second homes in National Parks. It’s now estimated that a quarter of all housing in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales has no permanent resident, and in certain areas this figure is even higher. 

In Keswick, for example, almost half of housing stock is either second homes or holiday lets.  

Visitor accommodation plays a vital role in boosting local economies, but its size and scale in certain locations is putting a devastating squeeze on affordable housing and making it impossible for many working people to live there. 

This has created a demographic divide, with families and young people forced to leave the places their great-grandparents called home. It has also made it harder for businesses, like pubs and restaurants, to recruit staff, as many potential employees simply cannot afford to live locally. 

The knock-on effect has been the closure of local shops, schools, and other public services. Life is slowly being squeezed out of many parts of our National Parks.

Things need to change. That’s why we’ve been calling on Ministers to take urgent action in curbing the negative impact of holiday lets and second homes, and we’re pleased they’ve finally started to listen.

The Westminster Government has recently given local authorities new powers to charge additional council tax on second homes that remain empty, now we need to see authorities using them in a proportionate way that benefits local people. 

We’ve also welcomed the announcement that short-term lets are to be made subject to the planning process but would urge the government to include second homes under similar proposals. 

Alongside this we want to see more affordable accommodation on offer, including camping and hostelling, so that no-one is prevented from experiencing the magic of our National Parks.

With news that mortgage companies are now trialling a ban on new holiday-let mortgages in locations like the North York Moors, it feels like we may have turned a corner when it comes to safeguarding these places, but much more work is needed. 

It’s high time we recognised the true worth that local communities bring to National Parks and took firmer steps to ensure that everyone, visitors and locals alike, can bring life to these amazing landscapes.


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