WARNINGS by some members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park against increasing council tax on second homes should be taken seriously, says the Association of Rural Communities.

Last month, the national park authority supported attempts to attract more families to move to and stay in the dales with a raft of measures, including increasing council tax on second homes by up to five times - an increase which will have to be approved by the government.

But, Pip Lane, spokesperson for the Association of Rural Communities, said the proposals had not received unanimous support from national park members - with some pointing out that the national park was not responsible for raising council tax and that any increase might have serious, unintended consequences.

Steve Macaré, a former chairman of the national park, did not believe that the authority should be leading the way, and that it should be left to the four district councils - including Craven District Council.

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 un-intended consequences which could lead to the interests of dales communities actually being damaged.

While 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.

And Caroline Thornton-Berry, chairman of the authority’s planning committee, and a member of Richmondshire District Council, said: “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.”

It is believed some second home owners are already

turning their properties into holiday lets - which are not included in the proposals and are subject to business rates - with just half going to the district councils.

“That would completely derail this attempt to rectify the problem of the diminishing stock of permanent homes in the dales,” said Ms Land, who runs the association's ARC News Service, which has been reporting on national park planning meetings since 2010.

She said only two of the 22 national park members at last month's meeting voted against the recommendation to support putting time into working with district councils on a joint programme of activity to attract more families and people of working age to move to the national park.

“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.”