THERE are ‘thousands’ of people living in caravans on holiday sites in Craven who get away without paying council tax, heard a meeting of Craven District Council.

It was wrong that people were able to sell their homes, buy a flat in the sun and a caravan in Craven and not pay any council tax for the months they lived in Craven, said the chairman of the council’s licensing committee, Councillor Simon Myers.

It was agreed to ask council officers to look at what other authorities did in what was agreed to be an issue in all parts of the country and exacerbated during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Myers said everyone knew of wealthy retirees, including former police officers, who lived for part of the year in one of the district’s holiday sites, using the services and not paying any council tax.

He said: “We know life has been hard, but we know of people selling houses, buying a flat in Spain and a caravan on a site in Craven, living off a fat pension and not paying council tax.That should not be allowed to continue.”

The committee heard there are more than 20 both residential and holiday caravan sites in Craven and some with a mixture of the two.

Occupiers of holiday plots do not pay council tax, but owners of the site pay business rates. Occupiers of permanent residential sites, such as the Overdale Park in Skipton do pay council tax.

Cllr Robert Heseltine said it was a ‘loophole’ that allowed occupiers of holiday sites to avoid paying proper levels of council tax and suggested that officers be charged with looking what other authorities in other parts of the country did.

“Those who are not paying the proper levels of council tax should be nailed down, local authorities are not made of money, but surely some local authority has a water tight policy on this,” he said.

And Cllr Peter Madeley added: “If you get the services, you should pay. People should pay the appropriate tax. It is not some Cayman Islands bank that we are dealing with.”

Councillors were discussing the paying of council tax as part of an ongoing review of holiday caravan site regulations undertaken by the council’s environmental health, planning and legal departments.

The meeting also heard from Karen Darvell, chair of Stirton-with-Thorlby Parish Council. The parish is home to the largest holiday home site in Craven.

Cllr Darvell, after the meeting, claimed there was widespread local misuse of holiday parks as a main or sole residence which had been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic

“As chair of the parish council with largest holiday home site in Craven I pointed out that the misuse of holiday parks impacts the number of people using local services, lost council tax revenue, housing register numbers and planning permission which permits greater freedoms for holiday parks.

“I asked councillors to consider that to help the enforcement team ensure no future misuse, the standards should require site owners to have a system of recording who is on site and when so that time spent on holiday parks can easily be monitored.”

She added: “All councillors present were supportive of addressing the residency issue and that of missed council tax payments, many were aware that the misuse had been going on for a long time and felt this had to be addressed urgently now.”

Also after the meeting, Cllr Myers said it was not about stopping people from holidaying in the Dales, or about those who were genuinely struggling, but it was not fair that people on ‘fat pensions’ got the benefits of living in Craven without paying for the services.

“There are a few thousand people in Craven who don’t pay council tax because technically they live on a holiday site, and that is not fair.”