Yorkshire Dales second homes tax hike proposal abandoned

The divisive proposal to pursue a council tax hike on second homes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been abandoned following a narrow vote against taking the proposal any further by councillors last night.

Councillor Yvonne Peacock, the leader of Richmondshire District Council, said that decision makers in the park now need to move on from the proposal which has provoked fierce criticism from a group of second home owners.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority had said they would only seek talks with the Government about the options available for raising the tax on second home owners if it had the unanimous backing of all eight councils within the park.

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Richmondshire councillors vote against council tax rise on second homes in the Y...

South Lakeland District Council was in favour of pursuing those talks having been the first of the park’s constituent councils to discuss the proposal but at a meeting yesterday evening members of Richmondshire District Council voted 13 to 12 against holding further talks. Three members abstained.

Coun Peacock, who spoke in favour of the tax hike in the council chamber, said: “I’m disappointed. What we said we were trying to do was to take a proposal to government so that they would recognise the decline of our communities.
“What is now clear is that charging extra tax on second homes has gone and we are not going to dwell on it. What we need to do is drive our ‘attracting families’ agenda forward. We mustn’t let that go because we lost the vote on second homes.”

The chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Carl Lis praised Coun Peacock for ensuring the second homes proposal was brought before the full council.

Parts of Richmondshire have the highest levels of second homes in the park, over a quarter of the housing in some parishes, he said.

In a statement issued this morning, Mr Lis said: “It would be remiss of me not to make clear to the public that the proposition to talk to Government has in effect been killed off. In my view, the decision has let down local communities by stopping the conversation before it had properly started.”

Mr Lis continued: “Richmondshire District Council has rejected the view that too many second homes can have an adverse impact on the viability of local communities. It has also rejected the view that there are too many second homes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I think many people living in the National Park will be staggered by those conclusions.

“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.

“Empty houses do not make for vibrant villages. The dramatically shrunken rolls at some primary schools tell the story most powerfully of all. This issue isn’t going to go away and it is a source of sadness to me that all we have done is to pass these problems to the next generation to sort out.

“We will continue to work with our local authority partners to develop the wider ‘Attracting Families’ initiative, of which the second homes proposition was one part.

“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.”

The Dales Homeowners Action Group was created to oppose the planned tax rise.

Commenting on last night’s vote by Richmondshire District Council, a spokesman for the group said: “It is a triumph for common sense and effectively kills off an ill-conceived exercise which has already caused serious damage to the fragile Dales’ economy.

“We have evidence of at least £300,000’s worth of improvement work being postponed or cancelled with local builders because of the uncertainty created by this politically-motivated and vindictive attempt at social engineering.

“House sales have been stalled and there’s been a human cost with some people seeing their life’s work put at risk. Those responsible for causing fear and division in the Dales’ communities should not only examine their consciences, but their suitability for public office.

“What can be salvaged is an opportunity for people to work together for the common good. We look forward to putting this episode behind us and engaging in constructive dialogue about the future of the national park.”