Single vote kills off second home tax hike

Date: Monday 5th March 2018

A COUNCIL tax hike for second home owners in the Yorkshire Dales was “killed off” by a single vote at a meeting this week.

Conservative-controlled Richmondshire District Council defeated the proposal by 13 votes to 12 and went against an officer’s recommendation to enter talks with the Government about the idea.

The proposal, which has been masterminded by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, required all five district councils to be on board or it could not be rolled out across the full park.

Those councils included Eden, Craven, Richmondshire, South Lakeland and Lancaster, as well as a trio of county authorities, Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire. Craven District Council had already backed the plan, but it fell at the second hurdle.

The aim of council tax increases of up to five times the present rate was to encourage some existing second homes back into full-time occupancy, discourage the purchase of more properties as second homes and ensure the remaining second homes made a contribution to the local area.

Carl Lis, the Ingleton-based chairman of the national park authority, said Tuesday’s vote had “killed off” the plan and “let down” local communities.

Mr Lis said: “Richmond-shire 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.”

He added: “It is 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 underoccupied homes in our Dales villages do they think will present a problem?

“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 underoccupied 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.”

The proposed tax hike would have affected an estimated 200 second home owners in the Eden part of the Yorkshire Dales, which includes places such as Orton, Ravenstonedale, Crosby Ravensworth and Maulds Meaburn.