Given the divisive nature of the controversial plan to impose a council tax surcharge of up to 500 per cent on second homes in the Yorkshire Dales, the likely success of the proposal was always in the balance and so it proved when members of Richmondshire District Council voted against the wishes of their own leader Yvonne Peacock who was among those to advocate the principle of the scheme.
Yet, while the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority should have done more to acknowledge the financial contribution that second home owners do make to the rural economy through the support of local tradespeople, shops and so on, it has certainly not been a wasted exercise. Far from it – there’s now much wider understanding of the need to build affordable homes, and create new jobs, in this iconic area.
However, while under-occupied properties are clearly a major irritation for policy-makers who are also duty-bound to spare these cherished landscapes from over-development as they look to better meet the future housing needs of local people, the decline of services in Dales communities will only gather pace and these towns, villages and hamlets will become even less desirable for families wanting to live, and work, in the countryside.
Given how the Government’s proposed shake-up of post-Brexit farm subsidies, launched this week, is intended to reward those landowners who make a significant contribution to the protection of the natural environment, perhaps Ministers need to offer incentives to the Dales authority and local councils across North Yorkshire so they’re rewarded for the number of low-cost homes built and new jobs that are created each year. Doing nothing is not an option – the challenge facing the Dales economy was said at the outset of this debate to be comparable to the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic – and policy-makers need to come up with an alternative means of generating the revenue and investment that this area clearly needs if it is to survive and thrive.