`Supertax' proposed on second homes to support rural buyers priced out of market

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LYNN WALKER counts herself very lucky. She lives in one of a handful of three-bedroomed houses built for locals only in a Lakeland village where at least 70 per cent of the houses are either holiday cottages or second homes.

She waited months to move into the pebble-dashed house in the village of Chapel Stile, near Ambleside, where she has lived with her family for 15 years. "I would never give up this house easily, simply because there would be nowhere else to go. As it is my son who works in Ambleside and his family could only manage to find a flat."

Mrs Walker, 47, was speaking as South Lakeside District Council agreed to set up a working party to explore ways of introducing a "super-tax" on second homes through a private member's Bill.

"These houses," she said turning to look at her own, "are part of the answer but only a few are built because of a shortage of land or because of planning difficulties. I think there ought to be more but it's not so simple when you live in a national park.

"I do think second home owners should pay their way by contributing to the cost of living here. They shouldn't get away with paying half the community charge."

It is a sentiment shared by Nelly and Fred Mallet, both in their seventies, who have lived all their lives in Chapel Stile. "We have nothing against the people who have second homes or run holiday cottages here; we don't see them often enough to dislike them", said Mrs Mallet. "What we do object to is the fact that some of them don't pay the full community charge as we do. And if you think that most of us have to save up to pay this tax, it really does rankle.

"If they paid up perhaps the council would have more money to spend on services and then we would all benefit. Some of the holiday home rents are pounds 400 and pounds 500 a week. Surely they must be able to pay more in the way of taxes than they do."

The district council yesterday agreed to Councillor Stan Collins' motion call for a working party to be set up. He wants to take the problem, which he described as destroying communities, to the House of Commons, arguing that a supertax would generate income to build affordable housing for locals.

He said second-home owners contributed very little to local communities but benefited from the "ludicrous" 50 per cent community charge discount the council was forced to give them. He reckoned the council loses pounds 1.7m a year because of it.

Another loss to the council, he said, was the income from commercial holiday homes whose owners pay a non-domestic rate straight to the Government. Any returns the council got by way of grants he argued was "minuscule".

He wants the district council and other local authorities to be able to charge a four-figure sum tax on second homes with the money earned dedicated to creating affordable housing for local people.