SECOND home owners could be hit with higher tax bills to help make the Yorkshire Dales more affordable for families and young people to live.

Civic leaders in the area are joining forces to seek approval for a series of measures to help attract and retain families to live and work in the Dales National Park.

The unaffordability of property is cited as a major reason why young people are forced to leave their hometowns, and with more than ten per cent of the Park’s housing stock being second homes, action is now being sought.

Civic leaders are looking at seeking approval for a five-year pilot which would see significant local increases in council tax on second homes introduced.

It is hoped that increasing bills may encourage second home owners to release their properties for sale or rent, thus freeing up some of the 1,500 or so second homes in the Park for permanent residence.

National Park Authority member and Craven District Council Leader, Councillor Richard Foster, explained: “Second homes are typically unoccupied for much of the year.

“That results in a substantial economic loss to the local community and – perhaps even more important – a loss of vitality.

“It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that second home owners should be asked to help make good these losses.

“Higher council tax charges on second homes could be the answer.

“Any additional money raised through this pilot could be ploughed back into community services.”

Richmondshire District Council Leader, Yvonne Peacock said that the needs of Dales communities needed to be prioritised over those of second homeowners.

She added: “Incentivising the sale or renting out of second homes could bring more homes back into full-time occupancy.

“For a twenty-something who returns from work each evening to a bedroom in their parents’ house, passing several empty houses on the way must seem very wrong.”

A detailed report into the various proposals to make the Park more viable for young people to live in will be presented to the Authority on December 19.

If approved, a proposal would then go to the national park’s constituent local authorities for them to consider.