Tim Farron is in an unique position because his sprawling constituency traverses two iconic national parks – the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District.
Yet, while he is still remembered by some for his shortlived leadership of the Liberal Democrats, he’s re-energised himself as pre-eminent rural campaigner.
He was amongst the first to highlight the impact of, first, shambolic rail services, and then Covid, on the tourism industry.
And now long-held concerns about availability of housing have prompted calls for online rental firm Airbnb to be subjected to tougher regulations in the public interest.
Mr Farron’s point is a profound one – how can it be morally right for Airbnb to advertise properties for tourists that are only available as a result of landlords evicting previous tenants using controversial Section 21 notices?
This reported exploitation of the law to evict tenants in order to profiteer and make more money from holiday lets may make sense to the property owner; this ‘racket’ does little to help the longer term sustainability of National Parks.
After all, families don’t just flock to the Dales and Lakes for the unrivalled scenery; they do so because of the careful stewardship of these landscapes and quality of hospitality.
And if communities continue to wither as a result of local people no longer being able to afford a home to rent, or buy, the national parks will lose some of their allure with far-reaching consequences for the wider rural economy.
As such, The Yorkshire Post commends Mr Farron for exposing Airbnb’s business practices – and the firm’s apparent reluctance to investigate disputes.
Farron has already set out a seven point plan to limit the number of second homes and make more affordable homes available for local families:
1. Make second homes and holiday lets new and separate categories of planning use. This would mean that councils and national parks would have the power to put a limit on the number of such properties in each town and village, protecting the majority of houses for permanent occupation;
2. Provide targeted, ring fenced finance so that planning departments have the resources to effectively police this new rule;
3. Give councils the power to increase council tax by up to 100 per cent on second homes in the worst affected communities - this would serve to protect those communities and it would also generate revenue that could then be ploughed back into their threatened schools and into new affordable housing for local families;
4. Force all holiday let owners to pay council tax, rather than avoiding paying anything at all if they are deemed a small business;
5. Give councils and national parks the power to ensure that 100 per cent of new builds are genuinely affordable;
6. Ban Section 21 evictions;
7. Ensure that platforms like Airbnb aren't allowed to cut corners and undermine the traditional holiday let industry, and have to meet the same standards as other rentals.