ANNOUNCING proposals for a five-fold council tax increase on second homes in December, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman Carl Lis said it was “not prepared to sit idly by” and watch communities decline because working age people and families are being priced out of the housing market.

The proposal came out of a desperate need to reverse falling roles at village schools, address labour shortages and make living in the Dales a feasible option for young families with an average income.

The debate has been rigorous. Second home owners, who formed an action group to fight the idea, recognised the need to tackle the issues facing rural communities, but argued the proposal had fundamental flaws. These included the financial basis of the plan, and the group produced figures which showed few holiday lets actually pay any council tax anyway – a property is subject to business rates if it is made available to let for at least 140-days a year for short-stay guests on a commercial basis.

After Richmondshire District Council voted 13-12 against joining with other authorities and taking the idea to the government, Mr Lis admitted the proposal has effectively been “killed off”.

While this particular idea is dead in the water, the debate surrounding it has at least highlighted the complexities of the issues facing rural communities. This momentum must not be lost. Councils, the park authority, permanent residents, businesses, farmers and second home owners, must keep talking to find a way forward that works for everyone.