No evidence

THE proposed council tax rise of 500 per cent on second homes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park lacks evidence to support such a controversial and radical change in council tax policy.

Before commencing this proposed pilot on an identified “at risk” community, a full impact assessment is required. Otherwise the likelihood of unintended consequences may prevail: villages full of “for sale” signs, run-down empty houses, and failing pubs and businesses. This would have a consequential drop on all property values and damage communities that are struggling to survive.

As second home owners, we have visited and supported the Yorkshire Dales for the last 60 years: we have a strong family connection to the area as my great grandfather built the property in the 1800s, and this was inherited from my mother. Family, now two generations, and friends visit regularly, family members have lived here for short periods. We’ve provided work for local tradesmen, from electrical upgrades to modernising and new roofs. First-time buyers and young families are unlikely to have disposable incomes to do similar work. We support local amenities, and the local pub thrives on the support of second home owners, who visit at times of the year when holiday lets are quiet

YDNP councilors are, understandably, concerned with both a falling and an ageing population. These concerns are reflected nationwide, particularly in rural areas, and not solely related to the Dales. To address these concerns, alternative solutions are available, rather than penalising second home owners. Richmondshire District Council has a ring-fenced budget of £2m for the provision of affordable housing: more family friendly homes could be built, and the YDNPA could relax its planning regulations, and encourage more small businesses to move into the Dales.

If the intention is to attract young families, jobs must be the stimulus to appeal to families and people of working age to return, and allow communities to grow and thrive. Attracting commuters merely perpetuates the problems that the National Park is trying to resolve, increasing demand for houses, whilst creating significant traffic/parking issues.

To argue that nothing else has worked does not validate this action. Without clear specific evidence that second homes are the sole cause of the falling population in the Dales, it cannot be right to target these homeowners. The proposal is discriminatory and will devastate the housing market: and may well speed up the marked decline it is trying to reverse.

Alison Nash, Fulbeck, Lincs


I WOULD like to express my dismay concerning the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s proposal to increase the council tax on second homes by up to 500 per cent. My family have owned a second home in Wensleydale for the past 20 years and we let the property to visitors to the Dales for about 30 weeks each year as well as using it ourselves.

The 30 or so families using our cottage each year make a significant contribution to the local economy and help to ensure the survival of the local shops, pubs, cafes and other attractions. Second home owners and holiday home owners have also saved numerous local properties from dereliction and this has been a secondary benefit to local builders.

When we first bought a property in Wensleydale it had been on the market for many months without any local interest. When we sold, prior to buying another property, the only people interested, in spite of the price being at the lower end of the market, were those either retiring to the area or wanting a second home.

The YDNP’s proposal is a classic case of a policy without any evidence base. It is a knee-jerk and populist reaction to a complex issue. The “we must do something” argument is not adequate and the YDNP report is woefully short on analysis.

The statements made by the YDNPA and the three local authority leaders (D&S Times, Jan 12) - that the sharp growth in second home ownership has caused the rise in house prices and denied dwellings to local people - are made without any evidence quoted to back them up - a severe case of don’t bother me with the facts I’m more comfortable with my prejudices.

If local people are being priced out of the housing market, this is mainly because incomes in the Dales are low and this problem will not be solved by penalising second home owners. Most parts of the Dales are characterised by an unhealthy reliance on agriculture and tourism and this is made worse by the fact that these are low wage industries.

Instead of focussing on easy targets like second homes, the YDNP and the local authorities should be concentrating on working with the private sector to diversify the local economy in order to attract alternative sources of employment. If successful, this would provide a wider spread of employment opportunities for the local population. It is both sad and dangerous for the local economy and local communities that once young people gain qualifications and skills they very often have to leave the Dales to find meaningful employment.

Steve Birkin, Sevenoaks

Punitive tax

I WRITE to you concerning the deliberations by the Dales authority and Richmondshire councillors on their ill-conceived plan to impose a punitive tax on holiday home owners in the Dales. We are apparently a burden on society.

My family have been fortunate to have a house in Swaledale now for 15 years and in that time we have had to spend many thousands of pounds with local businesses in maintaining, rewiring, plumbing, decorating ... the list goes on. We have also purchased two Landrovers over the years from the local garage, made a point of fuelling up there even if there is a premium on the price.

We generously support local enterprises - the Georgian Theatre in Richmond, the Swaledale Festival, the local shows etc. We buy everything locally and with our guests patronise the local shops, pubs and restaurants. OK we don't have children in the local school, but is that really being a burden on society?

The authority and our councillors seem to ignore the fact that we wouldn't be here if the previous local population had wanted to stay in the area. They sold their houses to us. A whole industry has been established around the holiday home owner which wouldn't be there if it wasn't for our huge investment in the area, giving the authorities an income when there was none before.

We are reliably informed by our farming neighbours that our own house was a ruin with sheep and cattle using it for shelter before our predecessors took it on and turned it into habitable accommodation. It now provides an income to the council of some £2,500pa for a fortnightly bin collection, but only if we are not snowed up. Is that really a burden to the area?

Finally, where is the work locally to support all these new young families without a long commute. The truth is there is none. The very reason why they left in the first place. The businesses that are thriving are doing so because of the investment in the area by the 'Incomers' - 'The Despised Holiday Home Owners'.

Hopefully the Dales authority and our councillors will come to their senses, though the thought of being able to impose a punitive tax on an unsuspecting public will be very hard to resist. It will be the thin edge of the wedge of course and all council tax payers should be aware.

Christopher Coles, Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire


IT is pleasing to see the Yorkshire Dales National Park has finally changed its policy and realised the Dales are dependent on the resident population.

Their proposed, half baked, solution, however, is ludicrous and very unlikely to be supported by central government not least because I imagine it will require primary legislation and would have implications across the country.

I have lived in Arkengarthale for 38 years. During all that time the permanent resident population has remained roughly static around 200 so let us keep to the facts.

The suggestion that second home owners make no contribution is simply untrue. Apart from many others, the moor owners have large second homes and yet they are one of the most significant contributors to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the Dales employing hundreds of people, whatever ones views on shooting might be.

No one could want to see more young people in the Dales than myself. I have been a school governor over 25 years and run junior sport at club and league level in the Dales. We are crying out for more youngsters.

What is needed is firstly more joined up thinking from parish council level up to Whitehall including YDNP but it must be remembered that YDNP is an unrepresentative, undemocratic, unelected quango whose policy hitherto has been to turn the Dales into a fossilised museum. They do some good but whether more than, say North Yorkshire County Council, would do is a moot point.

Secondly and more urgently, in order to encourage more young people in the Dales we need them to be able to work and the overwhelming requirement is mobile phone coverage and fast broadband. We need that and need it now.

Thirdly, we need an attitude from YDNP to support the economic and social viability of the Dales and not just what they look like. I will forever remember a planning officer’s objection (albeit quickly withdrawn) to the sports facility at Reeth on the grounds that “visitors will hear children playing.”

Nothing in this letter should be construed as criticism of older people, which now include myself, who are vital in maintaining the institutions of the Dales. We just need more young people and they need the support and infrastructure to live and work here.

David Williams, Langthwaite

Moral question

IN the current debate about how much council tax one should pay to own a second home in the Yorkshire Dales National Park is an important point not being lost?

Can it be right to own a second home at all when the number of homeless people has risen by 15 per cent in the last year and the Government estimates that between 300,000 and 450,00 new homes need to be built to satisfy the needs of the current population? There are plenty of even a blue-ish political hue who would call it morally questionable and socially divisive.

The proposal by the National Park Authority is a sound one despite the special pleading of the “Haves” in denying the “Have-nots”. If it frees up just one largely empty house to provide a home for a local family then it should be commended by all who love the Yorkshire Dales and want to see them thrive.

Richard Wells, East Witton

Station sale

LIKE many other people, I received an email last week from the Wensleydale Railway stating that the sale of Aysgarth station site has been completed and that it is now private property.

In July 1998. a team from Wensleydale Railway Association (the plc was not established until two years later) was invited to London to brief the Minister of Transport on our project. We discussed (amongst other things) the long-term goal of restoring the full 40-mile railway through Wensleydale, to re-connect the East Coast main line at Northallerton with the Settle-Carlisle line at Garsdale, thereby restoring a section of the national rail network.

We provided evidence of widespread support for this goal – which would also bring the railway back to Aysgarth, Askrigg and Hawes. We referred to the success of the previous year’s Aysgarth Bond issue, which raised money towards the purchase of Aysgarth station.

The first Wensleydale Railway bus service was launched in summer 1998; earlier that year, our then-MP William Hague had drawn our attention to a report in Hansard of a House of Commons debate about railways on February 9, in which the aim of restoring the railway between Northallerton and Garsdale was referred to by another MP in glowing terms.

Senior permanent officials were impressed by the WR briefing, describing it as “a model for integrated transport policy in a rural community.”

In the twenty years since that London visit, the need for ‘sustainability’ in its widest sense has become a matter of national debate. The role of transport in contributing to economic and environmental sustainability - and to the overall sustainability of local communities – is now widely recognised, together with the importance of providing car-free access to National Parks. Rural problems, and opportunities for rural regeneration, are serious news stories today.

At a meeting in Bainbridge some years ago, a local farmer said: “The railway in Wensleydale – that’ll bring the money in.” Wise words.

Let us hope that the new owner of Aysgarth station will be ready to play a part in bringing the 40-mile railway back to Wensleydale.

Ruth Annison, Askrigg

Dental woes

I LIVE in Richmond and was a NHS patient at the ADP dentist in the Market Place. I had regular six- monthly check-ups and I always booked the next one straight away – my last being December 2016 and the next being in booked for June 2017.

I received a letter in January 2017 from My Dentist cancelling all appointments and asking me to make a new one. On doing as requested I was told I could not make an appointment until May and I have tried on four occasions to make one. I have been given a different excuse each time.

I have now missed two check-up times and now My Dentist is closing – really they never opened properly to begin with.

When you go on the web site For My Dentist there are no phones numbers no email addresses just that they are the biggest and the best – well not in Richmond. On calling round there are no dentists accepting NHS patients in the area at all. Wonderful

We are told that dental health is so important – chance would be a fine thing.

Lynne Kemp, Richmond

Station usage

REFERRING to the concerns regarding the increase in pressure to the local services which result from all the new homes being constructed in the Stokesley area may I suggest that the function of the police station in the market place should be reviewed.

The station is housed in an attractive and historic building which needs to preserved. What the building is being currently used for must be questionable however. A sign at the entrance states that it is open in the mornings only from Monday to Friday. There are five very useful car parking spaces reserved for police vehicles only. From the outside it can be observed there are cells for prisoners (it is doubtful if these are ever used nowadays).

What other purpose the building is being used for is not known but I suggest whatever they are, they could be done on a less important site elsewhere, which could also serve as a depot for their vehicles.

A small office in the centre of the town could preserve what services are being currently offered to the public. A new use should be then sought for this prestigious building

Michael Akester, Carlton-in-Cleveland

Refugee shame

FOLLOWING the recent reminders of the Holocaust Memorial Day and the Kinder Transport, young Jewish children were brought to Britain in 1938/9 to escape the encroachment of the Nazis in Europe. Many of these children stayed in Britain after the war to make successful lives and enrich our country.

Today we have the problems with the refugees coming to Europe from Afghanistan and Syria. This time however Britain does not appear to be quite so welcoming.

It appears that we grudgingly accept some families but the unaccompanied children who are largely smuggled into the country in the backs of lorries, yes they are accepted but after a few years when they reach the age of 18 they are forced back to their country of origin.

Deep shame on the government.

Brian Tyldesley, Middleham

Road saviours

AT 10pm on January 12, I was driving along the northbound carriageway of the A1(M) when I had a puncture to the front offside tyre on my car.

I pulled over onto the hard shoulder through the inside lane which had been coned off for quite a distance. I was not in possession of a mobile phone.

I got out of the car with a torch and tried to attract the attention of passing motorists for help, after ten minutes I got back into my vehicle because I was so cold.

I had only been sat in my car for few minutes when headlights appeared behind me. It was a white van, and the the young man driving stated he had been travelling southbound, had seen my torch and turned off and drove north to see if he could help, and I was Ok.

He telephoned the AA for me on his mobile phone and whilst I was speaking to the operator a ‘Tarmac’ truck from the Boroughbridge depot containing two highways employees also checked to see if I was OK.

The AA operator assured me that my call would be given priority and I would be dealt with as soon as possible.

The young man in the white van, whose identity I did not know, left the scene, and the highways employees left after assuring me they would leave the cones in situ so that I would be in a safe area and they would keep a check on me to make sure I remained safe.

After a few minutes a police officer pulled up to make sure I was OK, and also to make sure help was on its way to remove me and my vehicle, he too assured me he would keep checking on me.

At about 10.35pm a young man from the AA arrived, took my punctured wheel off and replaced it with a wheel that fits all cars.

The help and kindness shown to me by all these people was pretty humbling to say the least and through your newspaper I would like to express my sincere thanks for all they did for me that night.

David Robson, Aiskew