United front as locals seek to end subsidy for absent home owners
12:00pm Saturday 28th February 1998
OWNERS of second homes in the Dales are being subsidised by the local full time residents to the increasing frustration of parish councils and elected representatives.
Growing disquiet of the system among parish councils is echoed in the chambers of Craven District Council and is one issue which appears to unite all the political parties.
According to the 1991 census, in the Craven part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park 13 per cent of all houses are either second homes or holiday cottages. In the whole of the Dales that figure rises to 18 per cent, a situation which authority chairman Robert Heseltine described as "scandalous".
In the old days the rules were relatively simple. Owners of every home paid rates on it, whether or not it was a weekend retreat or their principle residence.
Now weekend cottage owners pay only half the council tax due on their holiday retreat. And owners of country cottages to rent pay business rates directly to the government, some of which is then filtered back to Craven District and North Yorkshire County Councils - but not to the parishes. They pay less if the house is not occupied for more than 20 weeks.
Ian Cuthbert, chairman of Kettlewell Parish Council, where more than 40 per cent of houses are holiday homes, said that in effect the full time residents were subsidising the tourists.
Kettlewell raises £3,000 per year through the parish precept to pay for matters such as street lighting and the upkeep of the war memorial and public areas but the burden falls on the less than 60 per cent of households who live in the village full time.
"We have been trying to get something done for about five years. Those who have second homes pay only half and those who rent them out to tourists pay business rates, which do not get back to the parishes. In effect the real residents are subsidising the upkeep of the village."
Cecil Hammond, chairman of Appletreewick Parish Council, also said the system was unfair on people whose permanent home was in the parish.
Coun Heseltine wants to see second home owners pay double, not half, the council tax on the property.
"I am unable to reconcile the morality or justification of a society which tacitly accepts that over 1,700 dwellings out of a housting stock of just over 9,000 in the Yorkshire Dales are either second homes or holiday cottages," he said. "Nearly one in five of all dwellings are not available for local families."
He said that a 200 per cent surcharge on second homes "may slow down the haemorrhage of houses in the Dales available for full time family occupation".
Coun Heseltine also wants homes which are to be turned into holiday lets to require planning permission.
The government is preparing a review of local government finance and Craven Council is to ask for the question of holiday homes to be included in a consultation document.
At a recent council meeting, several spoke on the injustice of the situation.
"Some of these holiday home owners will earn more in less than 20 weeks of renting out the property than a hill farmer will make in a year," said Coun Margaret Billing.
The last census, in 1991, showed that there were 4,354 dwellings in the Craven part of the national park. Of these 576 were holiday or second homes.
Ten years earlier there were 3,988 homes, of which 406 were holiday or second homes.
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