Keswick councillors are pressing ahead with their plans to play an active role in stopping more local occupancy properties in the town being turned into holiday lets.
They stressed that their move was not “anti-holiday home” but was required as the balance of homes in Keswick continued to tilt away from local residents towards holidaymakers.
Recent council tax records show there were 794 self catering holiday units with a CA12 postcode, with a further 477 properties being second homes, a rise of 202 on the figure three years ago.
The issue came to a head last month when the Keswick Reminder revealed that a row of three properties in the town, all with local occupancy clauses, had been used as holiday lets for many years.
Keswick mayor Paul Titley said the story had “let the cat out of the bag” after it prompted the Lake District National Park Authority to promise to produce an up-to-date list of all local occupancy properties in its area by next April.
But Keswick Town Council wants more action, and at its meeting last week, councillors voted unanimously to urge the LDNPA to press ahead with its list and to write to local holiday let firms asking them to insist that property owners do not put forward any with local occupancy clauses.
Concern was also expressed about how private holiday let owners were able to avoid paying council tax on their properties by declaring them as businesses — and could then claim small business rate relief, which in turn entitled them to government payouts during lockdown.
Town councillors are now asking Allerdale Borough Council to help combat this while accepting it may take a national campaign, involving other badly-hit holiday areas such as Cornwall or Yorkshire, possibly involving a conference being held in Keswick, to change the current law.
The unanimous support came despite two councillors — Duncan Miller and Alan Dunn — both declaring they own local holiday lets.
“I am a holiday let owner and I am more than happy to pay business rates, but I do claim small business rate relief,” said Mr Miller, who supported the town council’s proactive action, saying it was “moving in the right direction”.
The debate had begun with Tony Lywood stressing: “This is not anti-holiday home. The one way we can stop our whole town being lost to holiday lets and second homes is by local occupancy clauses. We need to ensure they are adhered to.”