COMMENT: ‘Fragile’ areas of Lakes need protection against second homes

Coniston, which has a sizeable proportion of second homes and holiday lets

Coniston, which has a sizeable proportion of second homes and holiday lets

First published in Opinion

THE over-abundance of second homes in the Lake District has been a problem for decades.

Their proliferation has driven away local families and undermined the long-term viability of once-bustling villages by turning them into sleepy weekend retreats.

Many of these part-time homes will probably be occupied over the Easter weekend, giving affected villages a facade of vibrancy.

Perhaps the people who own or holiday in them will even use local pubs or buy groceries from the few villlage shops that remain.

Their patronage, of course, is to be welcomed - but it can never be enough to ensure that essential services in these communities will survive.

For example, second home owners are unlikely to put their children in village schools or encourage them to join local clubs and societies.

Another problem is that second homes often become retirement homes for their owners.

While this permanent presence in rural communities would offer some inward flow of income, the downside is an ageing population, which inevitably puts added strain on health and other care services.

The influx of holiday makers at certain times of the year adds to this pressure, as has been seen at Coniston and Hawkshead.

All these problems have long been argued about but authorities such as South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) have hitherto had little power to restrict second home ownership.

However, SLDC has decided to take its concerns to ministers, arguing it should be given greater planning powers to control the number of second homes and holiday lets in ‘fragile’ areas.

Its decision to take this to the highest level deserves to be applauded. The only problem is whether the Government will take its concerns seriously.

David Cameron has long promoted localism as a way of helping communities thrive - but by definition that can only work if there are enough local people left to espouse the concept.

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