“Second-home owners in the Yorkshire Dales could see council tax on their properties rise five-fold after a landmark vote.
Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority have backed an initiative designed to “halt and then reverse” the decline in numbers of young people in the region.
The move follows concern from residents that the number of second homes has contributed to younger people leaving the area, schools closing and a loss of services, thus creating “hollowed out communities”.
There are about 1,500 second homes in the Dales, representing more than 10 per cent of the total housing stock. Last night members of the park authority voted by 12 votes to nine in favour of working with local councils to develop a specific proposal on second homes.
A figure of at least five times the present rate of council tax has been mooted for second-home owners, equating to an annual tax bill of £8,500 for a band D property. The proposals would not apply to holiday lets.
The national park’s constituent local authorities will consider the proposals in the new year. If they all back the scheme a fully developed proposition to attract more young people and families will be put to central government.
Carl Lis, chairman of the park authority, said that the verdict “demonstrates that we are not prepared to sit idly by and watch Dales communities slow decline”.
He said that while unemployment in the national park “barely exists”, employers “cannot afford to pay the sort of wages you need to buy a home in the Dales” because their prices have been so inflated by the second-homes market.
“A lot of effort is going in to getting new affordable homes built, but it is being cancelled out by the number of homes going into second-home ownership. Any initiative to attract and retain families in the park which did not at least try to address the negative impacts of second homes would be like ignoring the elephant in the room.”
He added that he recognised that the proposals were controversial and that second-home owners did help to contribute to the local economy, but said that permanent residents would contribute much more.
Richard Foster, a member of the park authority and leader of Craven district council, went public with the second-homes proposal last month. He said: “I hope we might have pricked the social consciences of those who leave their properties in the Dales empty for most of the year, but our central concern is not about them, it is about the viability of local communities.”
Yvonne Peacock, another member of the park authority, said: “A few years ago there were 70 children on the roll of the school in Bainbridge where I live — now the number is 25. There are simply too many second homes.”
Source: The Times (pay wall)