Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been urged to examine the role of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority over its radical move to ask local councils to consider a huge tax rise on second home owners.
The Dales Home Owners Action Group said it had written to the Secretary of State accusing the park of “trying to exert political influence” by asking local councils to consider raising council tax on second homes by at least five times current rates.
A five-times increase would equate to an annual £8,500 tax bill for a Band D property but the proposal has since been revised to exclude a specific rate rise. Nevertheless, campaigners insist any such a policy would contravene Article 14 of the Human Rights Act, which forbids discrimination involving property.
The national park argues a tax rise is needed to address the perceived role of an “ever increasing” number of second homes in the decline of Dales communities.
However, the action group wants Mr Gove to consider if, by promoting the proposal to the eight tax-setting councils within the park, that the park authority has exceeded its primary purpose under the 1995 Environment Act.
The group, in its letter to Mr Gove, added: “The concept of political lobbyists masquerading as Government-funded conservationists, as with YDNPA, is something you may wish to consider in your review of national parks as part of your recently announced 25-year Environment Plan.”
The park authority’s remit is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the park’s special qualities, a role the Dales authority said it was acting in accordance to in an open letter to disgruntled second home owners.
In the letter, which is published today and can be read in full on The Yorkshire Post website, Carl Lis, the park authority’s chairman, said: “People have asked why the National Park Authority is getting involved in this issue. The answer is simple: the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the park cannot be effectively conserved and enhanced without strong, viable local communities.”
The action group claims local tradespeople have been affected by the proposal. Some second home owners have put scheduled work on hold, it said, and it also fears house prices would fall.
Brian Carlisle, managing director of Dales estate agent J R Hopper & Co, said: “If everyone decides to sell their home and nobody wants to buy them we will end up with a stalemate on the market. A stalemate... would ruin the local economy.”
Mr Lis rejected there would be a negative impact, saying: “The number of second homes in the park – around 1,500 – is high as a proportion of the total, but is not high enough to dramatically alter house prices should a number of them be put up for sale.”
TAX PROPOSAL IS REVISED
The original proposal voted in favour of in a narrow vote by members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has been revised after talks with civic leaders.
Instead of seeking local authority support for a five-year pilot to raise council tax for second homes in the national park to at least five times the current rate, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is now asking local authorities to vote on whether it should “work alongside the other councils and YDNPA to enter into discussions with Government on the options available for increasing council tax for second homes within the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park”.