England could ‘learn lessons’ from Welsh Government on second homes ‘catastrophe’ says Cumbrian MP
England could “learn lessons” from the way the action the Welsh Government is taking against second homes in Wales, a Cumbrian MP has said.
Tim Farron, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, represents a coastal rural community in the county in the north-west of England.
Leading a debate in the House of Commons on second homes and holiday lets, he said that the housing crisis which had been in development for decades “has rapidly become a catastrophe during the two years of the pandemic”.
“There are things that the Welsh Government could do, and there are some things that they are already doing that the UK Government are not doing—we could learn some lessons from them,” Tim Farron said.
“The Government could follow the lead of the Welsh Government and give councils the power to increase council tax by up to 100% on second homes in the worst-affected communities.
“That would serve to protect those communities and generate significant revenue that could then be ploughed back into their threatened schools and into new affordable housing for local families.
“A quick assessment shows that, in Coniston alone, that would raise £750,000 a year, which would make a colossal difference to that community.”
He added that many rural Conservative MPs secretly agreed that the impact of second homes on their communities was damaging.
“There is a kind of private agreement that this is a catastrophe. They see it in their own constituencies: the collapse of affordable, available housing for local communities is killing towns and villages in Cornwall, Northumberland, Shropshire, Devon, Somerset, North Yorkshire, the highlands of Scotland and rural Wales, as well as in my home of Cumbria,” he said.
Action to alleviate the housing crisis in Wales is being trialled by the Welsh Government in Gwynedd this month. They have also been consulting on higher council taxes on second homes, or new restrictions on registering homes as businesses.
A Labour MP, Matthew Pennycook of Greenwich and Woolwich, also said that the UK Government could look across the border at what measures were being taken in Wales,
“There is a strong case for exploring whether the Government should provide local authorities with powers to, for example, introduce licensing regimes for second homes and short-term lets, and for considering giving them even greater discretion over their council tax regimes,” he said.
“Perhaps allowing local authorities, as Labour has done in Wales, to levy a premium or surcharge on second homes and long-term empty properties if they believe that that is required in their locality.”
Conservative Aberconwy MP Robin Millar however called on Tim Farron to be careful that he did not punish those who wanted to keep a hold on homes that had been passed down through the family.
“My own constituency, Aberconwy in north Wales, has this problem—not to the extent that the honourable Member describes, but certainly smaller villages are particularly vulnerable to high levels of second homeownership,” he said.
“However, I wonder what he has to say about the example given to me of a farmer whose family had lived in one valley, Penmachno, for many years. He himself had to move away to find other work, so he now has a second home—his family home—in Penmachno, but he must live in England.
“In that circumstance, there is a second home in the village that is not occupied, but there is a tradition and a family heritage in that village. Should that person then have to give up that home?”