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Welcome for affordable rural housing plan

[Thursday 18 May 2006]

PLANS to build 11,000 affordable houses in rural areas have received a warm welcome from countryside campaigners - even though they could mean a stiff increase in local taxes paid by second-home owners.

Dales villages like Burnsall are awash with second homes

The Affordable Rural Housing Commission, which has been studying the way that second homes owners have sent the prices of countryside homes way beyond the reach of many local people, issued its report on Wednesday calling for a big increase in well-designed rural homes - and further exploration of the suggestion that second home owners should subsidise such building by paying a "local impact tax."

Such a tax would cause huge controversy in the Yorkshire Dales, when half the houses in some villages are second homes or holiday lets, but would be warmly welcomed by local residents who feel that, in the past, they have been forced to pay extra council taxes because second homes were taxed at a lower rate.

The commission's report received a warm welcome yesterday from one of the Government's sternest critics, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which applauded the recommendation that such new building schemes should be approved through the local planning system, rather than directly from Whitehall, as was proposed by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who was last week relieved of his planning powers (see A week in the country).

'We're delighted the Commission has accepted the argument that delivering a significant increase in affordable rural housing can best be done through our current planning system,' said Tom Oliver, CPRE's Head of Rural Policy.

'The misguided voices calling for a building free-for-all have rightly been ignored. That would have been a sure-fire way of stoking up resistance to building the urgently-needed affordable new homes in small towns and villages.'

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