In the role Neil, (45), will edit the News & Star in Carlisle and sister papers the Cumberland News, the East Cumbrian Gazette and West Cumbrian Gazette, and the Eskdale & Liddesdale Advertiser.
He has been editor of the Leeds-based YEP for almost seven years, and is also a former editor of the Lancashire Evening Post in Preston.
He said: “I would like to thank my team for their talent, drive and enthusiasm. It has made editing the YEP such an honour and a source of pride and enjoyment. I will miss them hugely.
“However, I have been offered a new challenge that was impossible to turn down and I very much look forward to meeting that challenge.”
The move is a big blow to staff in Leeds.
“He’s a very popular man and a good friend to a lot of people so there are a lot of long faces,” a source in the newsroom told HoldtheFrontPage.
Johnston Press (North) divisional managing director Chris Green said: “Neil will be missed as an important member of our team who has done much to strengthen the paper and its links with the city communities during his time as editor.
“Everyone here wishes him well in his future career. He leaves a legacy of strong campaigning journalism.”
Under Neil’s editorship the YEP has won a string of national and regional awards including the UK Evening Newspaper of the Year; the UK ‘Scoop of the Year'; Yorkshire Daily Newspaper of the Year; the Commission for Racial Equality Local Newspaper of the Year and the Johnston Press Newspaper of the Year for the last three years.
Neil is also a founder member of the Leeds Initiative group campaigning for more Government investment for inner-city areas.
Keith Sutton retires from his role as editorial director on December 23 – his 60th birthday.
The News & Star and Cumberland News have also won a string of awards, including Daily and Weekly Newspaper of the Year at this year’s North West Newspaper Awards. The Cumberland News is also the current holder of the Regional Press Awards’ Weekly Newspaper of the Year and overall Regional Newspaper of the Year, which it also won in 2001.