PLANNING legislation should be altered to curtail a rising number of second homes, according to a Cumbrian MP.

Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, has put down a motion in the House of Commons calling on the government to change planning law so that property owners will have to apply for permission to change a family home into a second home.

He says the change would allow local councils to reject bids where they feel the number of second homes is having a negative impact on local life.

According to Mr Farron, 7.5 per cent of properties in South Lakeland are second homes.

"The South Lakes continues to have one of the highest levels of second home ownership in the country," he said.

"Second home ownership has a massive impact on local communities across the South Lakes, with it often leading to the decline and closure of key local services like schools, bus services and shops.

“If our councils had the power to reject bids for second homes, they could better meet the needs of the local communities struggling with excessive second home ownership in a fair and effective way.

"It is a very real problem and there are always reasons for doing nothing, but if we are going to protect our communities from dying out then we need to take some action."

Pete McSweeney, vice-chairman of South Lakeland District Council's planning committee, said there was potential for the idea.

"Second home ownership can cause problems for some communities in South Lakeland," he said. "Planning legislation could help to overcome this problem. However, I would need to have a better understanding of how any legislation would work in practice before I comment further.

"Where I live in Arnside there's a significant number of second homes. My observation is second-home owners generally look for properties at the lower end of the market, and they're the properties that should really be made available for people who need affordable, low cost accommodation.

"It tends to price people out of entering the market."