Gove urged to intervene in Yorkshire Dales second homes row

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been urged to intervene in the row over proposals for a huge increase in council tax on second homes in the Yorkshire Dales.

A group formed to oppose the plan has written to Mr Gove accusing the national park authority of exceeding its remit and "trying to exert political influence".

The campaigners have also cited one of the Dales's most famous characters - James Herriot - in the controversy, pointing out that the vet - who's real name was Alf Wight - was a Dales second home owner.

Literature - Alf White
Alf Wight, who wrote under the name of James Herriot. Campaigners say Wight had a second home in the Yorkshire Dales (PA Archive)

But authority chairman Carl Lis has now written an open letter to second home owners acknowledging the "hurt" the proposal has caused, while stressing the "fact that we cannot shy away from, no matter how uncomfortable: too many second homes are bad for local communities".

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority backed the measure last month, saying it was to try to "halt and then reverse" the decline in the number of young people in the region.

It is now consulting with the eight local authorities which form parts of the national park with a view to putting a proposal for a pilot scheme to the Government.

Richmondshire Council will be first to vote next month.

Report: 'Consider five times Council Tax for second homes'. A report published today ...

-- Yorkshire Dales (@yorkshire_dales) December 11, 2017

The Dales Homeowners Action Group (DHOAG) has claimed an estimated 3.4 million second home owners across Britain could eventually be affected.

The group pointed out that Alf Wight lived in Thirsk, outside the national park, but bought a second home in Coverdale after the success of his books and the subsequent TV series.

A spokesman said: "The council leaders behind this hare-brained scheme should consider the long-term consequences of their ill-informed comments in promoting an idea that they know is destined to fail.

"They are making sweeping statements without the benefit of any proper financial impact assessment; causing untold reputational damage to the park, causing unnecessary stress and in the process talking down the local housing market.

"It's only a few decades ago that Welsh extremists were burning down English holiday cottages in North Wales. That was fuelled by prejudice."

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman Carl Lis (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority/PA Wire

In his open letter to second home owners, Mr Lis said: "It has never been in doubt that you love the Yorkshire Dales and want the best for the community in which you have your second home. Many of you have deep roots here, and contribute to the local economy when you are here.

"It is also true that the high proportion of second homes in the national park is only one of the factors contributing to the decline of some of our towns and villages.

"However, there is one further fact that we cannot shy away from, no matter how uncomfortable: too many second homes are bad for local communities."

Mr Lis said: "People have asked why the National Park Authority is getting involved in this issue.  The answer is simple: the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park cannot be effectively conserved and enhanced without strong, viable local communities."

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