The delivery of better infrastructure and more vibrant economic conditions that are needed to attract young families to the Yorkshire Dales National Park will only increase in difficulty as more properties become second homes, Carl Lis, the park’s chairman has warned.
A vote by Richmondshire District Council against exploring any further a proposed rise in council tax for second home owners means the idea has been abandoned.
And while the council’s leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock, insisted that the authority will “move on” to look at other options that could help boost the viability of Dales communities, Mr Lis said told of his “sadness” of passing on problems to the next generation to sort out.
“Communities in the National Park still need more affordable housing, better broadband and greater sustainable economic development. It will just be that much harder to deliver those things while we continue to lose the existing housing stock to second homes,” Mr Lis said.
By dismissing further talks in a narrow 13-12 vote, Richmondshire District Council had rejected the views that too many second homes can have an adverse impact on the viability of local communities and that there are too many second homes in the national park, Mr Lis said.
“I think many people living in the National Park will be staggered by those conclusions,” he said, and went on to criticise those who had opposed the proposal.
“It’s interesting to note that opponents to this simple proposition to have a conversation with Government on the second homes issue in the National Park have not put forward any of their own suggestions on what we should do to address it.
“What level of unoccupied and under occupied homes in our Dales villages do they think will present a problem, 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 40 per cent, 50 per cent?
“The Dales is characterised by strong, self-reliant communities. But, there is no doubt in my mind that some of these communities have been considerably weakened in the past 20 years by, among other factors, the rapid growth in unoccupied and under-occupied housing.”
A spokesman for the Dales Homeowners Action Group, which was set up to oppose a tax rise, hailed Richmondshire’s decision as “a triumph for common sense” in an “ill-conceived exercise” which had already damaged the Dales’ fragile economy.
The group claimed that house sales had stalled and that at least £300,000 of work had been postponed or cancelled with local builders because of the uncertainty created by “a politically-motivated and vindictive attempt at social engineering”.
David Butterworth, the chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said it had been “absolutely right” for the leaders of local councils to raise the issue of an ever increasing number of under occupied properties and the impact that has on communities.
“Frankly, it has been difficult to have a grown up debate,” he said, adding that too much had been made of the initial suggestion of a five-fold increase in tax on second homes.
“That was about ‘thinking the unthinkable’ and getting the debate going. It was never part of any formal recommendation or proposal. Some opponents of the idea have deliberately misled people to think otherwise.”
FAMILIES MISSION WILL GO ON
Richmondshire Council leader, Coun Yvonne Peacock, spoke in favour of the tax hike at the council meeting but after losing the vote she said the council now needed to drive the ‘attracting families’ agenda forward.
“We mustn’t let that go because we lost the vote on second homes,” she said.
Reeth and Arkengarthdale councillor Ian Scott, said a fresh resolve had come out of the council meeting, saying: “There was a feeling of ‘yes, we need to get on and discuss the wider issues in the park. It’s a start rather than a backwards step.”
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said it would continue it work with councils.