At the beginning of last week there was a second reading debate in Parliament about a Business and Planning Bill which is currently being supported by both the Government and the Labour Party based on the comments that were expressed on the day. One of the contributors was Tim Farron and he was not suggesting he opposed the Bill, but he was clearly calling on the Government to adopt an additional element. His speech covered a number of themes but this one has value in a range of settings beyond the Lake District where he is an MP.
I turn to planning and the easing of planning restrictions being seen as underpinning the revival of our economy. That is absolutely right—at times, that will be worth pursuing. However, I point out to the Minister that in some cases, the revitalisation of a local community can be helped by restrictions or new changes in planning law. In particular, I am thinking of absentee ownership, or second home ownership, in places such as the Lake district, the Trough of Bowland, Yorkshire dales and other places of natural beauty.
In my constituency, 7,000 of our properties are not holiday lets, but second homes—they are boltholes that are not lived in for nineteen twentieths of the year. That means it is a home owned by somebody who sends no children to the local school and who rarely contributes to the local post office, the bus service and so on. It is possible to make planning laws that would enable places such as the Lake district and the Yorkshire dales to have a lid on the number of empty homes in our communities. Therefore, a community that has been built and shown to be vibrant during the covid crisis can have the opportunity to grow still and not peter out due to a lack of full-time homes.
In a number of other locations across the nation including Devon, Cornwall and Dorset and even in Sussex, particularly in rural areas but even in Brighton there is evidence of communities that are being stripped out of places that local people can live in because of the purchase of second and third homes from people who like to visit those places and have a great deal of money and so can compete for property and in effect raise the prices for other people who want to live in those settings on a more conventional basis. Sadly as Mr Farron suggests these homes are inhabited for 5% – 10% of the year and they add very little to the area even when the people do reside in them. It is vital that such arrangements are prevented from damaging these communities.