Call for Gove to in­ter­vene in Dales tax row

Na­tional Park ac­cused of over­step­ping its re­mit

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - BEN BAR­NETT AGRI­CUL­TURAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT ■ Email: ben.bar­nett@jpress.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @benbthewriter

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?”

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