Housing minister offers to host Lake District event on second homes crisis

THE minister for housing has offered to host a roundtable event in the Lake District to see what more could be done to tackle the housing crisis.

On the floor of the House of Commons this afternoon, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron urged the government to change planning law to give local councils further powers to limit the number of second homes in Cumbria.

The government recently announced new powers for local authorities to apply a discretionary council tax premium on second homes of up to 100 per cent.

The move was announced during the Queen’s Speech last week, and is one of several measures included in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which the government hopes will ‘spread opportunity, drive productivity and boost local pride in every corner of the country’.

But Mr Farron believes only five per cent of second home owners would be affected by the new levy, as second homeowners would only face the hike in council tax if the property is occupied for less than 70 days a year.

Earlier this year he revealed that in South Lakeland there has been a 32 per cent increase in the number of holiday lets over the past year.

Speaking during Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Questions in Parliament, Mr Farron said: “It’s vital that houses which are given planning permission are then used for the purposes that was agreed in the first place.

“I’m talking about second home ownership – homes that were built for local families that end up being second homes, leading to communities being hollowed out.

“Would he agree to look again at the bill that is coming and look at bringing in a new change of use so that second homes and holiday lets are separate categories of planning use, so that homes in Cumbria can remain for local families and not just become part of ghost towns?”

Responding, the Housing Minister Stuart Andrew said: “The issue of second homes is something that I seem to be dealing with on a daily basis with colleagues from around the country raising it with me and highlighting some of the concerns they have for their communities.

“We have in the bill the ability for local councils to increase council tax on those second homes.

“But I think there is more we need to explore and that’s why I’m doing a series of roundtable events around the country and maybe I can come up to the Lake District to do one there.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Farron said: “I’m pleased that the minister has offered to come to up to Cumbria to discuss the housing crisis.

“This has so many knock on effects from businesses not being able to recruit staff, to not enough children going to the local schools, so it’s massively important that this is addressed as a matter of urgency.”

The Westmorland Gazette | News