Yorkshire is beautiful. But when will it boom?

The South-east continues to race ahead in economic growth, jobs, and house prices


Queuing for fish in North Yorkshire’s Easingwold market earlier this year, I latched on to the conversation of two men, possibly farmers, standing behind me. The early morning mist had begun to lift, revealing bright sunshine for the first time in what felt like months, after endless rainy, cold days. Crop-sowing had been put back by about three weeks, but here, at last, was the warm late-spring sun bathing the cobbled square and market stalls. One of the men said to his friend, in his full-bodied North Yorkshire accent: “Aye, we’ll put up with this.”

I can imagine a similar reaction this week at the news that Yorkshire has been named by Lonely Planet as the third best region in the world, after The Kimberley in Western Australia and the Himalayan region of Sikkim in India. The people of Yorkshire may be famous for their understatement and a default setting often regarded, unkindly, as grindingly miserable. But Lonely Planet is effusive about the three  ridings in its Best in Travel 2014.

It is not only the breathtaking open beauty of countryside like the grouse moors of North Yorkshire, or the wild Dales. Lonely Planet also praises the rich arts and culture of its cities – Bradford has become the world’s first Unesco City of Film, Leeds is “fashion-thirsty”, Wakefield has a new art gallery and there are more Michelin-starred restaurants in Yorkshire than anywhere else outside London. To this I would add Salts Mill, a honey-coloured stone former mill turned into a Hockney gallery in Saltaire, just outside Bradford, and the recently refurbished Talbot Hotel in Malton, whose restaurant must be next in line for a Michelin star – if only for its scones.

I’m not from Yorkshire, but I hope the Red Rose side of the North will forgive me for being in love with its White Rose rival. I spent five years studying in Leeds, and now go to North Yorkshire, where my partner’s mother lives, several times a year. I have a longing to start my own hillside asparagus farm in North Yorkshire one day – if only I could be released from London’s grip.

And this dilemma goes to the heart of the issue about our unbalanced country and economy. It is understandable that Yorkshire has been rated third best region in the world. But London and the South-east continue to race ahead in economic growth, jobs, house prices and population – all interconnected pistons in an engine barely touched by recession. Tourism bosses in Yorkshire will be delighted by their new world ranking, but for local people, house prices are flat and joblessness is high in the less affluent areas. Even the well-to-do farmers who queue for fish in Easingwold market are struggling, as they will tell you within minutes of meeting them.

Janet, the farmer’s wife who runs our favourite B&B in the Howardian Hills, had difficulty attracting visitors last year because the Olympics sucked all the tourism to London, and the rain did not seem to stop in 2012. She has seen trade pick up this year, and the Lonely Planet rating will be a further boost, but in nearby villages a pub that closed down two years ago still cannot find a buyer, a grocery shop is on the brink of closure; its post office went a few years ago, replaced by a mobile one, which comes every Thursday. Places need more than just tourists to keep them flourishing: they need a local population to keep growing, creating jobs, and spending, to keep it alive.

Those of us who live in London take for granted the capital’s soaring economy. It is difficult to break free from the capital – for me, I can’t really report from Parliament if I’m living in North Yorkshire, even though you can get from York to King’s Cross in less than two hours. I am fortunate enough to have a foothold on London’s housing ladder, and watching your property’s value streak ahead is a drug habit that is difficult to give up. But at a children’s Halloween party in south London at the weekend, the talk, as ever, was of there being not enough school places to go round, of not having enough outside space for our kids to run free, of traffic fumes building up in the roads around the local park – all downsides of a vibrant capital city.

Critics of HS2 are, rightly, concerned that the rail line will merely boost London and the South-east further, rather than bring prosperity to Birmingham and Manchester. If the government was really committed to balancing transport infrastructure in the UK, it would create a super-fast rail line linking northern cities to each other, rather than seeing the country through the prism of a station platform at Euston, King’s Cross or Paddington.

But it is not only ministers who need to look beyond London: major capital-based firms need to see Yorkshire, and other regions, with new eyes: the BBC was bold to move most of its operations to Salford; Leeds is starting to pick up some business in financial services, but there needs to be more of this. Because Yorkshire will always be beautiful, but it needs more than tourism to help it remain one of the greatest places in the world. Like many regional centres, it needs better public transport, private investment, and maybe a hillside asparagus farm.  As they say in Easingwold, “we’ll put up with that”.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain