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“Attracting families” report approved

Bainbridge, 19 December, 2017

Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) have formally backed an initiative – which includes a “radical” proposal on second homes – designed to “halt and then reverse” the decline in the number of young people in the Park.

They voted to:

  • “Support putting further time into working with the constituent local Councils to try to reach agreement on a joint programme of activity to attract more families and people of working age to move to the National Park; and
  • “as part of that programme, approve the Authority working alongside the local Councils and other relevant authorities to develop a specific proposal to Government on second homes. (This does not include holiday lets.)”

Members voted by 20 to two for the first measure, and by 12 to nine on the second measure with one abstention.

The vote means that the YDNPA has become the first local authority to formally offer in principle support for a five-year pilot scheme in which Council Tax would be significantly increased on second homes in the Park.

It is hoped that meetings with local authorities in the Park can take place during the early weeks of the New Year.

Speaking after this afternoon’s full Authority meeting, YDNPA 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.  

“Members had a very good and considered debate.  The need to attract families and people of working age to the Park was widely acknowledged. And all the big issues came up - the mismatch between local wages and house prices, employment opportunities, school closures, loss of services and hollowed out communities.  

“With our partners in other local authorities, we hope to be able to make speedy progress on the development of a co-ordinated programme of activity to attract more families to move to the Park.  That means building the right sort of housing, creating new jobs, and putting in place the right sort of infrastructure.  As part of that, we will also be working hard to develop a more detailed proposition on second homes that we can put to government at the earliest opportunity.

Carl Lis added:  “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.

“As well as retaining more local young people, we would hope to attract people who would bring their own ideas and enterprises to the Dales.  There is excess infrastructure capacity in some key areas, such as vacant places in good schools. If we can continue to see improvements to broadband and mobile phone infrastructure, the Dales could become a fantastic place to come to start a new business.  

“So although employment is a challenge, the really big nut we have to crack is housing.  A lot of effort is going in to getting new affordable homes built, but that effort is being cancelled out by the number of homes going into second home ownership.   Any initiative to attract and retain families in the Park which did not at least try to address the negative impacts of second homes would be like ignoring the elephant in the room.

“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.”

YDNPA Member Richard Foster, who as leader of Craven District Council went public with the second homes proposal last month, 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.  

“I really think the second homes proposal has a chance of success.  We’ve got a long way to go, but I can realistically see the government giving approval. I hope we might have pricked the social consciences of those who leave their properties in the Dales empty for most of the year, but our central concern is not about them, it is about the viability of local communities.”

YDNPA Member Yvonne Peacock, who is leader of Richmondshire District Council, said:  “I am 100 per cent behind these proposals.  A few years ago there were 70 children on the rolls of the school in Bainbridge where I live.  Now the number is only 25.  One of the reasons for that is undoubtedly that local families are priced out of the housing market – and the growth in second homes has played a big part in that.  

“It is so important that we keep our communities vibrant and unfortunately there are simply too many second homes.  But the second homes proposal is only one part of the jigsaw and I hope people can see that.”

A ‘What Happens Next’ timeline for the second homes proposal is hard to determine.  Much will depend on how the Council Tax precepting bodies in the National Park choose to deal with it.  However, here is potential timeline, which is subject to change:

  • Jan-Feb 2018:  Meetings between the YDNPA and the local authorities in the Park take place.  Eden, South Lakeland, Craven and Richmondshire District Councils, Lancaster City Council, and North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire County Councils could take a vote on whether to approve the development of ‘a specific proposal to Government on second homes’.
  • Early Spring:  Depending on the outcome of the above, the specific proposal will be drawn up by a team of legal and policy officers that could be drawn from the constituent councils and YDNPA.   
  • June:  The YDNPA will take a second vote, this time on the fully developed proposal to put to Government.

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