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Plan for five-fold increase in council tax on second homes in Yorkshire Dales

Meadow of buttercups and and Dales barn in Swaledale
Meadow of buttercups and and Dales barn in Swaledale
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Second home owners in the Yorkshire Dales could see the council tax on their properties increase five-fold.

Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) backed the measure to try to "halt and then reverse" the decline in the number of young people in the region.

The vote was taken as part of an initiative to attract more families to the park, which they say has 1,500 second homes.

They said it would work by "encouraging some existing homes back into full-time occupancy, discouraging the purchase of further second homes and ensuring that remaining second home owners are making a similar 'socio-economic contribution' to the local area as permanent residents".

It makes the YDNPA the first local authority to offer in principle support for such a five-year pilot scheme.

Chairman Carl Lis said: "The vote shows that the authority is committed to trying to address the serious issues facing Dales communities. It demonstrates that we are not prepared to sit idly by and watch their slow decline.

"There is a strong demand for labour in the park, unemployment barely exists. The problem is that many employers cannot afford to pay the sort of wages you need to buy a home in the Dales, which carry price tags inflated by the second homes market.

"Second home owners do put money into the local economy by employing builders to do up their properties, and using local and retail services. But permanent residents would very likely contribute much more, and in any case, do we want the Dales to have a second homes economy? I think we can do much better than that.

"I recognise that the particular proposals about second homes are controversial. A number of members raised concerns today and we will take those into account in our forthcoming discussions with local authority partners. We need to show that we can get the detail right - and we now have the opportunity to do that."

Meetings with local authorities in the park to discuss the measure are expected to take place in the new year.

Depending on the outcome of those discussions and votes, the specific proposal will be drawn up and the YDNPA will take a second vote on the fully developed proposal to put to Government.

YDNPA member Richard Foster, leader of Craven District Council, said: "I am really pleased that the authority has - in principle at least - thrown its weight behind the 'attracting families' initiative, which includes the second homes proposal.

"It is a simple fact that we need more families and people of working age to live in the park. Several schools are under serious threat of closure. Even now, any action that we might take could be too late."