Call for Gove to intervene in Dales tax row
National Park accused of overstepping its remit
ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY Michael Gove has been urged to examine the role of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority over its radical move to ask local councils to consider a huge tax rise on second home owners.
The Dales Home Owners Action Group said it had written to the Secretary of State accusing the park of “trying to exert political influence” by asking local councils to consider raising council tax on second homes by at least five times current rates.
A five-times increase would equate to an annual £8,500 tax bill for a Band D property, but the proposal has since been revised to exclude a specific rate rise. Nevertheless, campaigners insist any such a policy would contravene Article 14 of the Human Rights Act, which forbids discrimination involving property.
The National Park argues a tax rise is needed to address the perceived role of an “ever-increasing” number of second homes in the decline of Dales communities.
However, the action group wants Mr Gove to consider if, by promoting the proposal to the eight tax-setting councils within the park, that the park authority has exceeded its primary purpose under the 1995 Environment Act.
The group, in its letter to Mr Gove, added: “The concept of political lobbyists masquerading as Government-funded conservationists, as with YDNPA, is something you may wish to consider in your review of National Parks as part of your recently announced 25-year Environment Plan.”
The park authority’s remit is to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the park’s special qualities, a role the Dales authority said it was acting in accordance with in an open letter to disgruntled second home-owners.
In the letter, which is published today and can be read in full on
The Yorkshire Post website, Carl Lis, the park authority’s chairman, said: “People have asked why the National Park Authority is getting involved in this issue. The answer is simple: the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the park cannot be effectively conserved and enhanced without strong, viable local communities.”
The action group claims local tradespeople have been affected by the proposal. Some second home-owners have put scheduled work on hold, it said, and it also fears house prices would fall.
Brian Carlisle, managing director of Dales estate agent JR Hopper & Co, said: “If everyone decides to sell their home and nobody wants to buy them we will end up with a stalemate on the market. A stalemate... would ruin the local economy.”
Mr Lis denied there would be a negative impact, saying: “The number of second homes in the park – around 1,500 – is high as a proportion of the total, but is not high enough to dramatically alter house prices should a number of them be put up for sale.”
THE CHAIRMAN of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has today claimed it would be “absurd” not to 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 the 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 homeowners, 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.”
Too many second homes are bad for local communities.
Carl Lis, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
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?”