LAKE District communities risk becoming ‘villages without children’, experts have warned.
Second homes and holiday lets have hit 80 per cent in Elterwater and are nearing 70 per cent of all homes in Skelwith Bridge.
And even in Coniston they have breached 50 per cent for the first time, claim housing campaigners.
Thousands of parents and children left South Lakeland between 2001 and 2011, and there was a massive rise in the number of 60-to-64-year-olds moving in, census figures show.
Judith Derbyshire, head of Cumbria Rural Housing Trust, warned: “We are heading towards a perfect storm and South Lakeland is at the forefront of it. All these issues are coming together to create one big one for the future.”
But consistently high house prices and low paid careers are also making the issue worse, she said.
“I am talking to different people about who is moving in and who is moving out and it’s always young ones moving out while the people moving in tend to be retired.
“Older people bring a lot of skills, knowledge and advantages, but we need a mix of ages,” she said.
“We need young people to work in shops, pubs, garages and look after our older people in the jobs that are not well paid – otherwise how are we going to manage? We will have villages without young families and children.”
The average house price in the National Park is put at £254,477 and the average income £26,899. Those on low incomes would need 12.9 times their annual salary for a mortgage.
But rental rates for flats in the honeypots have also soared in 10 years, while the open house market was dictated by those with higher incomes, said Mrs Derbyshire.
There could come a time when villages would be entirely dep-endent on young people forced to live in neighbouring towns where more and cheaper housing was available.
Mark Squires, head teacher of Langdale Primary School, said he had managed to sustain its roll of 45 children by drawing pupils from neighbouring towns.
“In the 14 years I have been here the number of houses occupied full time has decreased,” said Mr Squires.
“There are places here where there are noticably fewer children than their used to be, for example Little Langdale – and in the Duddon Valley they’ve closed the school and barely anyone under the age of 40 lives there.”
Statistics are collated on the proportion of second homes and holiday lets from business rates and council tax discounts, but South Lakeland District Council says these are under-reported and home owner arrangements can be complex to establish.
In Coniston, a grass roots survey of 600 homes by the local land trust is under way to establish housing need.
The community-run Coniston and Torver Community Land Trust is behind the survey, with support from Coniston Parish Council.
Alastair Cameron, a Torver-born resident and chairman of the trust, which has already delivered 22 affordable houses, said: “It is important to keep a handle on this issue because otherwise you run the risk that the post office shuts, you lose services such as schools and sustaina-bility is threatened. All we are trying to do is get the balance right between holiday lets, second homes and homes for local people.”
Mum-of-one Helen Dodd, who works in the hospitality industry, is secretary of the trust. “I want somewhere for my child to live in the village when he grows up and to make sure we still have amenities.”
BUSINESSMAN Philip Johnston says his 60 holiday cottages at Coniston Coppermines are good for employment in the village.
The 59-year-old director employs 30 people, including office staff, gardeners, housekeepers and tradesmen.
And he says the firm also generates lots of additional work for local people such as decorators, gardeners and plumbers.
“All the properties have to be kept top notch,” said Mr John-ston. “Every window needs cleaning far more often than your home ever would.”
He says Coniston has around six joinery businesses – trades and pay packets that would not exist without holiday lets or second homes.
“You have to consider the amount of money they bring into the local economy that would not be here,” explained Mr Johnston, who puts the figure at about £4 million a year for his business alone.
“The disposable income and spend of one of our visitors is about three times that of a resident. Without them, Coniston would not be able to sustain the number of shops selling food, the bank, and probably the post office.
“Coniston has five pubs and a restaurant - you wouldn’t sustain those on residents alone.”
Mr Johnston ‘gives back’ to the community by using his snow plough to clear roads and says his company also campaigned to keep open the local toilets and tourist information centre, and sponsors local events.
He said several local landowners, who also own holidays lets, had put forward land in the past for affordable homes as well as investing in empty shops and properties.
“I think there should be more homes for local people because we need people to work in our communities,” said Mr Johnston.
“The problem you have is that only around 40,000 people live in the National Park and it has eight million visitors. Half of those living in it are over 60 or retired. We only have a working population of around 20,000 which is not enough for the visitors we have to service.”
Coniston parish councillor Anne Hall is focussed on identifying empty homes to create new affordable homes.
She said: “We have always said we understand the value of holiday lets to Coniston, but I felt I wanted to give people hope of being able to stay in their village.”
Officially, there are 572 homes in Coniston and 368 are lived in permanently. Statistics show there are 204 second homes and holiday lets but South Lakeland District Council and others admit that the numbers could be higher.
Sixty-six properties are rented through housing associations, 70 are privately rented and several have local 106 occupancy clauses.
It means 157 properties are ‘protected’ in the village but 211 are privately owned and could go up for sale to anyone.
Pheona Nicholson, a mum-of-four, lives at one of Coniston’s new affordable housing schemes.
She thought she would have to leave village forever when the floods in 2009 wiped out her rented property and she had to go to Hawkshead.
She said: “I love living in Coniston and I never tire of the view. We never thought we would be able to come back because of the prices.”