From: Mark Corner, Chairman, Friends of the Dales.
WE are very disappointed and disheartened by the decision of Richmondshire District Council not to support the proposal to develop further the concept of increasing council tax on second homes in the Dales, involving discussion with the Government, as part of a wider initiative to tackle the challenge of community sustainability.
Using a medical analogy, there appears to be universal agreement regarding the symptoms that need to be addressed. Residents, many of them young, are leaving the Dales and new families are not arriving. Our landscape is a cultural one, shaped by its communities, and if our communities diminish then the special qualities that attract potential residents and visitors here in the first place will, over time, diminish too.
I believe there is also agreement on the diagnosis of the condition – in general, jobs in the Dales do not pay enough for families to be able to afford to live in the area (The Yorkshire Post, March 1).
Where there is disagreement is about the treatment needed. It is fair to say that what has been tried in the past isn’t working, because the situation is deteriorating and our communities are becoming less sustainable – schools, shops and other services are closing or being withdrawn and depopulation is occurring. Doing nothing will not help.
To continues the medical analogy, when a new idea emerges one would hope that it would be given serious consideration and developed accordingly to the point that its efficacy can be determined. The idea being to increase council tax on second homes, to encourage some existing homes back into full-time occupancy, discourage the purchase of further second homes and result in second-home owners contributing economically more like permanent residents. We are supportive of the concept.
For a doctor to fail to consider a new treatment at all and dismiss it at the concept stage without analysis would probably result in a charge of negligence.
Yet, this seems to me to be exactly what Richmondshire District Council did in rejecting the proposal to develop this idea further. There are legitimate concerns with the proposal that would need to be addressed but their ‘patient’ is comatose with a poor prognosis and they dismiss a possible solution at the first hurdle. I sincerely hope that they have some alternative approaches in mind to improve the sustainability of their communities or I fear the worst.