COUNCIL tax could be hiked on second homes in the Yorkshire Dales to help halt the flight of young people and families from the national park.

Civic leaders are joining forces to look at seeking the go-ahead for a five year pilot which would see a significant increase.

Currently there are about 1,500 second homes in the park - more than ten per cent of the total housing stock.

Craven district council Leader Cllr Richard Foster has told a meeting of full council that community sustainability had become a pressing concern.

And one of the key ways to tackle it was by addressing the impact of second homes.

He said he was working with Richmondshire district council’s Leader and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Chairman to develop the idea for wider debate.

Cllr Foster – also a Member of the national park authority – said a detailed proposal would be brought to a meeting of the authority on Tuesday, December 19.

If approved, a proposal would then go to the national park’s constituent local authorities for them to consider.

“All across the north of England we have seen a flight of young people from the more remote rural areas like the Dales – and only a trickle of young people and families have come in to replace them," he said.

“Action in four key areas – economic development and job creation, broadband infrastructure, the retention of vital local services, and housing – is needed.

"I think we’ve come to the point where we would not be doing our duty if we didn’t take a serious look at second homes

“Second homes are typically unoccupied for much of the year. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that second home owners should be asked to help make good these losses."

National Park Chairman, Carl Lis, said: “There is no doubt that we need to retain more of our young people and attract others from outside the park.

“By stimulating the housing market, second homes have helped to create a gaping affordability gap between house prices and local wages.

"The knock-on effects are a ‘flight’ of working age people, school closures, loss of services and hollowed out communities.”