Concerns have been raised about a plan to increase council tax on second homes.
A proposal from Richmondshire District Council which has been backed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park authority could see second home owners in the Dales having to pay five times the level of council tax that locals have to pay.
The could mean a tax bill of £8,500 a year for a Band D property in the national park.
But some community leaders have raised concerns about the plan, including some members of the park authority.
The objections raised at the authority’s December meeting included the fact that the YDNPA cannot raise council taxes itself and that a large increase might have serious unintended consequences.
A former chairman of the YDNPA, Steve Macaré, did not believe that the authority should be leading the way with such a proposal because it was not a precepting council.
That, he said, should be left to the four district councils which have areas within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
He and others also pointed out that the negative impact upon rural communities of the increasing number of second homes and holiday lets was a nationwide problem and not just within national parks.
North Yorkshire county councillor John Blackie warned about the law of unintended consequences which could lead to the interests of local communities actually being damaged.
Others described the proposal as a blunt instrument which had not been fully researched.
Jocelyn Manners-Armstrong said: “The people who buy second homes are our [national park] friends, they are our supporters, they care about the Dales. We shouldn’t repay their support by making them pay more.”
She accepted that something did need to be done but asked at what cost.
She agreed with some others that the priority had to be to create more jobs, and to improve transport and communications.
The chairman of the authority’s planning committee, Richmondshire District Councillor Caroline Thornton-Berry commented: “I think we could be open to legal challenge if we suddenly say to somebody who has been coming here for maybe 40 years that [their second home] is going to cost an extra £10,000 a year.”
A parish council representative, Cllr Allen Kirkbride, described how many second home owners in Askrigg actively supported community events.
He did not believe that increasing the tax on second homes would solve the problem of providing more affordable housing.
Cllr John Blackie pointed out that many of the volunteers with the Little White Bus service had been second home owners and now wanted to give back something to the community.
“An increase in tax will put off people who want to contribute – they will go elsewhere,” he added.
According to the Association of Rural Communities, one member said after the meeting that second home owners were already considering turning their properties into holiday lets.
Pip Land, from ARC, said if they did that they would then pay business rates of which only half would go directly to the district council.
The rest would go to the government which would then decide how much to give to the district council.
“That would completely derail this attempt to rectify the problem of the diminishing stock of permanent homes in the Dales,” Ms Land, who runs, on a voluntary basis, the association‘s news service which has an archive of reports on voluntarism YDNPA planning meetings dating back to 2010.
She noted that only two out of the 22 YDNPA members at the December meeting voted against the recommendation to support putting time into working with the constituent district 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 district councils and other relevant authorities to develop a specific proposal to the Government on second homes.
She said: “Having listened to the debate at the authority’s meeting in December we know there was not 100 per cent support for the proposal to make more homes affordable to young families by substantially increasing the council tax on second homes.
“The Association of Rural Communities has argued since its inception 22 years ago that the well-being of the national park depended upon the sustainability and well-being of its communities. It is good to see that the YDNPA is seeking to address the serious issues facing those communities.
“We only hope that the chief executive’s warning that it may already be too late to halt their decline proves to be wrong.”