3 min read28 June
What we don’t need is villages like Coniston or Grasmere, in the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom, to be filled with empty houses, with no local people living there.
It’s not often I get to start with talking about a Liberal Democrat victory, so please excuse me! Last week the voters of Chesham and Amersham sent the Conservatives a message. They said no to the government’s proposed planning laws. They said no to Westminster dictating what should be built and where, over the head of local communities. They said no to local communities having no say on new developments.
The Conservatives believe we need to build more homes, and I and the Liberal Democrats agree with them. Young people are half as likely to own a home as the previous generation and people are now unable to buy homes in the places they were brought up. That is a scandal with a clear solution. That means giving councils more powers to build homes, not less and stopping the government from handing more powers to developers to continue to bank land.
But in places like my patch in South Lakeland, there is another problem. People are being forced out of their homes and communities. In Cumbria, there has been a 32% increase in the number of holiday lets in the Lake District and during the pandemic 80% of homes sold there since last March have been as ‘second homes.’ This is shocking.
Communities become ghost towns and playgrounds of the super-rich
Every house bought as a ‘second home’ is a loss to a local community. It means less children going to the local school, it means less patrons at the local pub or less people working in the local hotel. It means communities become ghost towns and playgrounds of the super-rich. It means the closure of that school and that pub, and the hotel struggling to get staff. And all this so someone can enjoy the British countryside for just a month a year.
While holiday lets bring people to our National Parks, which means money and tourism that these places rely on, there is such a thing as too many. In Ambleside, a local woman paying £700 a month in rent has been evicted by her landlord so they can make £1,000 a week on AirBnB. This cannot go on.
These “Lakeland Clearances” are not just happening in the Lakes, they’re happening everywhere. From Cornwall to Norfolk. From Wales to Northumberland. And it must stop.
That’s why Liberal Democrats are calling for the Conservatives to act. Our communities need the powers to stop every home that goes on the market being sold as a ‘second home’ and the ability to limit the number of holiday homes.
I am calling for new planning classes for both second homes and holiday lets, so people have to apply for permission before removing a home from the local housing stock. It’s all very well this government promising to build more homes, but what good is that if they’re not being sold to local people, but instead doomed to sit empty for most of the year.
There are plenty of areas in the UK which rely on tourism and everyone who rents a holiday let brings money into the area. We need this. But what we don’t need is villages like Coniston or Grasmere, in the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom, to be filled with empty houses, with no local people living there. If we allow this to go on, we risk driving away the tourists, not encouraging more.
The Conservatives must act now to end these clearances and ensure our most beautiful areas remain viable and prosperous communities.
Tim Farron is the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale.
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