“CALL me a hopeless romantic, but I would love to hear from Craven Herald and Pioneer readers by Valentine’s Day,” says Yorkshire Dales National Park chairman Carl Lis.

The February 14 date refers to the deadline for an online survey requesting feedback into the future of the much-loved area.

Mr Lis continues: “ I’d like to know what people think should be included in a new set of planning policies (a ‘Local Plan’) for the Yorkshire Dales National Park to cover the period 2023-2040.

“Nearly 10,000 people live in the part of the national park that lies within Craven, accounting for 42 per cent of the total population. But many more people live just outside, and may care for or have an interest in this special and fragile landscape.

“The proportion of older people in the national park is increasing rapidly - 31 per cent of the population in the Craven part of the Park is aged over 65, compared with 22 per cent in 2001.

“New independent studies on population, housing and socioeconomic trends in the Park illustrate that if we wish to sustain our communities and tackle some of the demographic forces we are faced with, then we should seek to attract younger people from outside the Park to come to live here.

“So, one of the key questions for the new Local Plan is what planning policies can be put in place to help to make this happen. When new housing is built where should it go?

“Do people think the high rate of ‘under-occupied’ homes (holiday lets and second homes) in the Craven part of the Park needs to be tackled, perhaps through policies that might ensure more properties are permanently occupied? The under-occupancy rate is 16.1 per cent inside the Craven part of the Park, compared with 7.3 per cent in the rest of the district.

“What should be the future of the large scale roadstone quarrying operations in places such as Ribblesdale, and should more material be moved by rail? What might be new economic uses for Threshfield quarry?

“On quarrying, it’s interesting to note that there are currently no building stone or roofing flag quarries left in the National Park. Are there places where local, natural building materials could be produced viably once again?

“The Craven part of the Park has so much going for it; as of 2017, there were 4,600 jobs in the area, 1,100 more than in 2009. There’s been strong growth in the tourism sector, as well as in the ‘professional, scientific and tech’ sector. The farming economy accounts for roughly 1 in 6 jobs. What areas of future development can be identified in a new Local Plan? Are there opportunities for more home working, expansion of existing business and more opportunities for farm diversification?

“And then there is the question of what role the National Park should play in facing up to the two greatest challenges of our time – climate change and nature recovery. How, for example, might we use the Government’s proposals for mandatory ‘biodiversity net gain’ from new development to best enhance the conditions for wildlife? And to what extent should our nationally-designated landscapes be leading the way in things like generating renewable energy and building more energy-efficient buildings?

“If you don’t like current planning rules, this is your chance to say so. If you’ve got ideas about how your town or village could be a better place to live in or do business in, this is a chance to air them.

“I am particularly interested in hearing from younger people who might like to live in the Dales, so that Craven District Council and the Authority can work out ways to try to tackle the barriers they face.”

People can get in touch through an online survey (www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GHGWR59); write to Freepost YORKSHIREDALES, no postcode needed, or visit our website at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/planning-policy

The deadline for this first-stage consultation is Friday, February 14.