A COMMUNITY of 300 residents which lost its school due to a lack of pupils appears close to achieving its long-standing ambition to revive the number of families living there.
A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s Richmond constituency committee heard Ingleby Arncliffe and Ingleby Cross residents praise the authority and its leadership for helping address the absence of affordable housing in the area.
Members were told the villages should be used as an example of how to address pressing rural issues after holding a referendum and showing a collective determination.
Councillor Bryn Griffith said: “We have a number of small schools, some of which are closing, and the issue of what happens to those school sites, in relationship to the local communities is important. This is a lesson about how a local community can get together with the county to provide some provision.”
He said while there was an identified housing need for families in the villages overlooked by the north-western fringe of the North York Moors, they had been struggling for years to find a suitable site for the properties.
After the school closed when pupil numbers fell to ten two years ago there was a clear opportunity for the land to be used to meet the need, members were told, but the owner of the school site, the Diocese of York, instead submitted a plan to build four, four-bedroom houses there.
The meeting heard Hambleton District Council deferred a decision over a scheme for the site after villagers said they wanted to use it to build 18 small and affordable homes to help young people to get on the housing ladder for the first time, young families with children to find a small and affordable home, and for elderly people to downsize in later life.
The diocese agreed to sell the school site for the parish’s affordable housing scheme with Beyond Housing Redcar, only for it to hit a further hurdle as talks with the county council on buying part of the former school playing fields for the development ground to a halt.
Resident George Hunter said: “There seemed to be an impasse that nobody could get past and the diocese were running out of patience. They wanted to conclude the sale of the school site and suggested – threatened is probably the word – to reopen the negotiations for the school site if progress wasn’t made.”
In response, 70 per cent of the community signed a petition to the county council in September to expedite the sale of the playing fields.
Council leader Councillor Carl Les said it had been refreshing to find a community which wanted housing built on their doorstep and suggested other communities would do well to follow the example of developing a vision.
He added: “I was very impressed with their enthusiasm and the fact that they had a neighbourhood plan - they knew what they wanted to do.”
The housing scheme is set to be considered by Hambleton council early next year.