A review into the impact of the pandemic on the Yorkshire Dales National Park has heard fresh calls for action over surging numbers of second homes and holiday cottages as people increasingly look to move to the country.
A Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority meeting heard while some of Covid-19’s social and economic consequences on the 2,179sq km area remained unclear, there was increasingly clear evidence that the rising numbers of people were buying properties as an investment rather than as somewhere to live and work.
Members were told while 3,100 of the national park’s 12,000 properties were now holiday lets and second homes, and the number was rising, the pandemic had accelerated a trend for rural relocations among wealthy and retired people.
The concerns come three years after the park authority saw its proposal to bolster communities by imposing a five-fold increase in council tax on second home owners in the national park rejected.
Former Friends of the Dales chairman and park member Mark Corner told the meeting the pandemic had been “a game-changer to how society will be acting in future” and questioned whether the authority needed to reassess its strategies, such as on promoting the area as somewhere for families to live and work.
He said: “I see evidence of an increased interest in second homes. People wanting to find a safe space as a second home location.
“There’s been this huge awakening in closeness to nature, there’s been a recognition that remote working is feasible and is a way forward, there’s been pretty much devastation of our tourism economy.”
Third generation farmer Allen Kirkbride said the village of Askrigg in Wensleydale was seeing a deluge of properties becoming second homes and holiday cottages.
He said: “People are buying them as an investment and the vast majority are going to holiday lets.
“We are now starting to be over-run. A lot can’t afford it. It’s just pushing the prices up and up.
“In some way we have got to suppress this a little bit.
“It wasn’t a major problem five years ago, but it certainly is a major problem now.”
Veteran authority member Robert Heseltine added the authority was “as guilty as anyone in promoting Yorkshire Dales as a destination”. Joining calls for fresh action, he said: “We can only influence things if we have a leadership role.”
The authority’s chief executive, David Butterworth, warned members of the lack of support from surrounding councils the last time they tried to raise the second homes issue and said it was the market which determined who bought properties for second homes.
He said: “It looks in the early stages that there might be some acceleration in that.
“There is no support for any restraint on second homes from the county councils, district councils and I would suggest the local community.
“When the national park authority tried to show some leadership over this matter we got slapped down in an extraordinary manner by those bodies concerned.
“There wasn’t even support about discussing the matter with central government, which was all we wanted to do.”
Mr Butterworth added when the last Local Plan was put into force that provided evidence there were insufficient numbers of holiday lets in large parts of the national park and those that there were, were not of the required standard.
He said members would have the opportunity to revisit its policy over second homes in the forthcoming Local Plan.