Yorkshire Dales chief tackles second home tax rise criticism

Carl Lis, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
Carl Lis, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
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The chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has today claimed it would be “absurd” not address the “ever increasing” number of second homes in the park, however uncomfortable it is.

Carl Lis said he acknowledged the “hurt” the park’s proposal to raise council tax on second homes had caused and that it is also absurd to suggest second homes are the sole cause of the decline of Dales communities.

However, in an open letter to second home owners shared with The Yorkshire Post and published on our website in full today, Mr Lis said the park cannot shy away from its belief that too many second homes are bad for local communities.

He brushed aside suggestions the tax proposal amounts to “social engineering” and dismissed claims that a mass sell-off of second homes, sparked by a tax rise, would cause local house prices to plummet.

Eight tax-setting local authorities whose territories falls within the national park are set to vote on whether to work together, and with the national park, to open talks with government on what increase it can apply to council tax for second homes within the park’s boundary, but the proposal has upset second home owners in the Dales, some of whom have joined together with permanent park residents to form the Dales Home Owners Action Group.

The group opposes the idea and intends to suggest alternative ways to address attracting young families to the park.

In his letter to second home owners, Mr Lis said: “It has never been in doubt that you love the Yorkshire Dales and want the best for the community in which you have your second home. Many of you have deep roots here, and contribute to the local economy when you are here.

“It is also true that the high proportion of second homes in the National Park is only one of the factors contributing to the decline of some of our towns and villages.

“However, there is one further fact that we cannot shy away from, no matter how uncomfortable: too many second homes are bad for local communities.”

Explaining the challenge to providing homes for local families to live, Mr Lis said: “For every new home that we build in the National Park, two existing homes become second homes or holiday lets. That leaves us with only two options. We do something, or we shrug or shoulders and do nothing.”

He said the authority recognises second homes are just part of a problem which can only be addressed by also building more homes, creating greater economic opportunities, extending broadband and mobile phone coverage and marketing the area better as a place to work and live.

Mr Lis also countered claims that the tax policy amounted to “social engineering”, quoting Craven District Council leader Richard Foster by saying that social engineering is cutting a local bus service, shutting a school and leaving a village centre home for much of the year.

He challenged too the logic of claims that the proposal will lead to lower house prices, adding: “We have a target to build 55 new homes in the park each year. No one has yet provided any evidence that that policy will bring down house prices... why should having more homes available through the sale and letting of second homes have any greater impact?”