OWNERS of second homes in rural beauty spots could face paying double the rate of council tax under Liberal Democrat plans to ensure local residents are not priced out of the property market.
The plan will allow local authorities to charge 200% council tax in an effort to curb the high rates of second home ownership in areas like the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
The measure forms part of a “countryside charter” being launched by the Lib Dems, with Nick Clegg claiming his party will create 300,000 new jobs in rural areas if it is in government after the General Election on May 7.
Mr Clegg said the proposed second home levy was aimed at ensuring there is “fairness in the housing market”.
On a campaign visit in St Austell, Cornwall, he said it could help “particularly in such a wonderful part of the country as this where there are so many people with second homes and where the prices because of that are way beyond the reach of many young people wanting to get their feet on the first rung of the property ladder”.
Aides to Mr Clegg said there “is a balance to be struck between second home owners and first home owners in rural areas”.
A source said “we are not saying this will be imposed” but local authorities in areas including Cumbria, Cornwall and Devon have said they would be interested in higher council tax rates to “discourage” second home ownership.
Launching the countryside charter, the Deputy Prime Minister promised to “close the gap” between urban and rural areas in the provision of high speed broadband, ensuring 99.9% of households are covered.
Other measures include help for farming, strengthening the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to ensure farmers are paid fairly, publishing a national food strategy, and developing an animal disease strategy to lessen the risks and costs of animal disease.
The party says it will also take action to protect rural post offices and other essential services from closure, prioritise rural housing and boost tourism by introducing a “fuller” right to roam.
“Rural areas play a large part in Britain’s economy with the rural economy worth £210 billion. The Liberal Democrats want to unlock this potential so rural areas and the rest of the UK can thrive,” Mr Clegg said.
“In order to prosper, rural areas need good local services, appropriate infrastructure and more housing.”