Ryedale is a very rural area, covering 150,659 hectares (575 square miles) and is the largest district in North Yorkshire. Ryedale has a population of 51,700 people, and with 0.34 persons per hectare is ranked as having the 2nd lowest population density of all 326 local authorities in England, as reported on the North Yorkshire police website.
Ryedale is a very beautiful part of the world, containing both the North York Moors National Park and the Howardian Hills AONB. The River Derwent is a Special Area of Conservation and there are many other quiet places that are attractive to those seeking a quite place to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
As well as its abundance of wild spaces and natural features, Ryedale has many attractive towns and villages. Helmsley, for example, was recently named Britain’s best market town in the Great British High Street Awards, and there are many other beautiful towns and villages in the area.
It is no surprise, given Ryedale’s low population density and natural beauty, that the main industries in the area are tourism and agriculture. In fact, Ryedale is very much dependent on these two sectors for its vibrant economy. The latest figures (reported in the Gazette and Herald in September 2015)3 show that tourism alone is worth £213 million a year to the district economy – with one of the area’s attractions (Flamingo Land) in the top five most visited places in England.
On the Ryedale District Council website, it states that that Ryedale welcomes an estimated 4.5 million visitors each year, with tourists and visitors providing over 6,800 jobs in the district.4
RYEDALE’S TOURISM ECONOMY – Figures taken the Great British Tourism Survey 2014
93 million domestic overnight trips were taken in England in 2014, a decrease of 9% compared with 2013. The value of domestic overnight trips fell by 3%, from £18.7 billion in 2013 to £18 billion in 2014.
Bucking this trend, there was a 2% increase in domestic overnight trips in Ryedale and an increase of 3% in trip spend. The number of trips made by visitors from overseas to the area was up by 6% and their trip spend was up by 15% compared to the previous year. In total, it is estimated that around £70 million was spent by all overnight visitors, up 4% from 2013.
Around 4.5 million tourism day trips were made to Ryedale in 2014. While this was actually a 4% reduction compared to the previous year, day trip expenditure per head increased by 4%.
In total, approximately £213 million was spent on trips to the district in 2014 by overnight and day visitors, up 4% compared to 2013. 30% of this expenditure was made by domestic staying visitors, 3% by overseas staying visitors and 67% by day visitors.
These statistics clearly show that Ryedale depends very heavily on the visitor economy for its economic health and prosperity.
The other key industry in Ryedale is agriculture. Ryedale has been called the ‘breadbasket of the UK’ due to its reputation for high quality produce. Malton – the main market town in the area – is known as Yorkshire’s Food Capital, with its monthly food market attracting thousands of visitors.
Ryedale also has other important rural industries that depend on clean water and quiet countryside, such as fishing, grouse and pheasant shoots, and breeding racehorses (a third of all UK racehorses are bred in Ryedale).
According to the Ryedale Economic Action Plan 2012-15, published by the Ryedale District Council, nearly 30% of people employed in the area have jobs in agriculture, forestry and fishing.
THE GAS INDUSTRY IN RYEDALE
Ryedale has had its own gas industry for about 20 years, with approximately 13 well-sites having produced conventional gas during that time. These were originally owned by Viking UK Gas Ltd and RGS Energy Services Ltd, and were acquired by Third Energy UK Gas Ltd in 2011. The gas produced at these well-sites is pumped via underground pipes to Knapton Generating Station, which converts this gas into electricity and feeds it into the National Grid.
However, the gas industry cannot be considered a major employer in the area, or driver of the local economy. According to the Third Energy website, it only employs ‘more than 20 staff locally in Yorkshire’ and spends less than a million pounds per year with local businesses.10 This is insignificant when compared to the figures quoted above for tourism and agriculture.
UNEMPLOYMENT IN RYEDALE
Ryedale has a very low level of unemployment, with only 204 people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance in June 2015 – down from 339 in June the previous year. This is another indicator that Ryedale has a strong economy, and the increase in tourist revenue is likely to have been at least partly responsible for the fall in unemployment.
In summary, Ryedale is a thriving rural district of Yorkshire, which high employment rates, a vibrant tourist economy and a well established and respected agriculture industry.
So why does Ryedale need a fracking industry again, Mr Hollinrake?