SOUTH Lakeland District Council is making a bid to be given new powers to try and limit the number of second and holiday homes in the area.

Members of the Lib Dem run Cabinet have today (April 9) agreed a 'draft submission' to be sent to government asking for greater planning powers to control second homes and holiday lets in ‘fragile’ areas.

The idea, says the council, is in response to concerns that in some parts of South Lakeland more than 30 per cent of properties are now classed as ‘second homes', which the authority says can undermine the long-term viability of those communities.

A report to the Cabinet, which met in Sedbergh today, stated that such high levels of second homes can have several impacts - most notably driving up house prices leading to a greater demand for affordable homes.

The submission document to the Government shows that in some parts of Cumbria the average house price is now £317,458 – 10 times greater than the average £31,207 household income in those areas - often forcing young families to leave in search of more affordable accommodation.

The council said this causes major demographic shifts with younger people leaving and an increasingly ageing population being left.

The impact is more demand on care and health services and what the council says is an 'increasing lack of social cohesion' as the volunteer base for local organisations and activities grows older.

The submission adds: “The importance of tourism to the South Lakeland District cannot be underestimated, and the provision of holiday accommodation…plays an important role in sustaining the local economy.

“However, there is a need to ensure that the development of facilities targeted on tourists does not undermine the very communities that sustain the local environment.’’ The submission has been drawn up by SLDC working together with the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA).

It calls for government to introduce an additional planning use class for ‘holiday houses’, to be used in areas where this type of property use is ‘damaging community sustainability.’ Using the new class would allow local authorities to restrict the change of permanently-occupied housing to use as a holiday house in fragile areas identified as having too many holiday houses.

An SLDC spokesman said the next stage, now that the submission has won the backing of Cabinet, will be to seek further support for the bid from other councils which share similar issues.

It is expected that the final submission under the government’s Sustainable Communities Act will be made during June 2014.

The spokesman continued: “The submission is made directly to government. Although not prescribed it is understood a response should be received within six months – around December 2014.

“If the council is not happy with the government response on the proposal the council can refer it to the Local Government Association, which is the recognised body for seeking a negotiated agreement on proposals not initially accepted. There is no prescribed timeframe for that.

“If the proposal is accepted and government agree to take the issue further, we do not yet have a likely timetable by which a mechanism may be put in place, but it will require further development as a mechanism, periods of public consultation and then the government decision-making process.

“It is anticipated that this may take a good number of months and likely a couple of years.’’

South Lakeland District Councillor, Jonathan Brook, Portfolio Holder for Strategic Growth, said: “This is about ensuring a sustainable future for our rural communities and taking a balanced approach.

“This would not be a blunt instrument and would not be applied retrospectively. It would be for individual parishes to come forward to ‘opt-in’ to the process if there was a particular problem identified in their area."

“It is very specific, and isn’t an attack on the holiday homes industry.’’