A DECISION to double council tax on second homes in Craven has been described as 'not before time' and an opportunity to halt rural communities becoming 'Dales version of the Hamptons'.

Last week, North Yorkshire Council agreed a council tax premium on second homes across the county from next year, making it is one of the first areas in the country to progress with adopting the Government’s new measures.

The policy will be adopted from April 1 2025, given the requirements under the new national legislation to give second homes owners a 12-month period of notice before the charges are applied.

The proposals are ultimately aimed at bringing second homes back into use for local communities after many people have been priced out of the housing market in some of North Yorkshire’s most desirable locations.

It is also expected that the decision to introduce the premium will provide a multi-million pound boost to finance council priorities, including a central aim to use the funding to help introduce more housing in areas particularly affected by the affordability crisis.

Richard Foster, member champion for sustainable development at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, and Wharfedale member for North Yorkshire Council said: “The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority strongly supports the recent decisions by Westmorland and Furness Council, and now North Yorkshire Council, to double council tax on second homes. It is not before time. The very high number of second homes in the national park is a long-standing, important issue for local communities.

“I am sorry for the distress this will cause some second home owners. Some families have had a second home here for generations. Yet the reality is that younger, working age people have little hope of finding or affording a house of their own in the national park. We must try to remedy that. That means bringing more of the existing houses into permanent occupation, instead of being occupied for just a few weeks a year.

"For those second home owners that don’t want to do that, what makes this council tax increase on second homes fair is that it will contribute to the building of new, affordable homes.

“I hope a significant proportion of the money raised by the councils through the second homes council tax premium will be ring-fenced to support the provision of new affordable housing and local services within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

"The national park authority looks forward to discussing how it can best support the councils’ endeavours on this area of work.”

North Yorkshire councillor David Staveley, who represents Settle and Penyghent, added: "I think the proliferation of second homes and holiday lets has been a long standing issue for many of our communities across North Yorkshire, specifically in the more popular tourist destinations, having left many of these communities changed beyond recognition from where they might have been say 40 years ago.

"And while tourism is an important industry across the county, it is a sad irony that much of what has drawn people to want to spend their leisure time here, the close knit sense of community, individual identity and a rural pace of life, has been hollowed out and degraded by the gradual depopulation of many villages to the point that they can no longer support essential services such as schools, village shops or hospitality settings.

"The result in many cases has been a spiralling of house prices which to a degree does reflect national trends, but is exacerbated by the limited options for new housebuilding in sensitive rural settings and has left many younger buyers with no option but to look further afield and move out of the communities they grew up in. The funding generated will also provide additional funding towards North Yorkshire Council's commitment to build large numbers of new affordable homes as announced this week, with 500 new homes planned and plans to build many more across the county."

He added: "Overall I think the second homes council tax along with the new planning legislation will give us the necessary tools to try and rebalance our communities and make them predominantly places that people live in again, not some chocolate box curio to be visited during peak times and left almost deserted and dysfunctional when not. This might seem like some form of social engineering Jenga, but our local economies and communities need rebalancing if they are to survive and not just become a Yorkshire Dales version of the Hamptons."

Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire Council, said: “The need for more affordable housing has long been recognised in North Yorkshire, and we are committed to doing all we can to allow people to live in the places that they wish to.

“The fact that the county is such a wonderful place to live and work is one of its biggest draws, and as a result this has compounded the issues surrounding affordable housing.

“We also welcome visitors from across the world every year, and while there needs to be a balance with preserving the visitor economy, the current situation is simply not sustainable.

“As a council, we are leading the way to become one of the first local authorities to introduce the council tax premium on second homes. It will help to free up homes, and ensure our communities remain sustainable for the future.”