A ROW between the Duke of Devonshire and the villagers who live on his country estate has re-ignited a debate about regulating holiday homes.
Residents across the Peak District have raised fears their communities will die unless the wealthy are restricted from buying second homes and holiday lets – but tourism chiefs say they are essential for the local economy.
The Duke has provoked anger among 200 people in the hamlet of Beeley, which stands in the shadows of Chatsworth House, by forging ahead with plans to transform three stone-built Grade II listed Dove Cottages into hotel rooms.
The homes, which are tied to employment, stand opposite the Devonshire Arms hotel and have provided homes to generations of estate workers since the mid-1800s.
But Peak District National Park Authority’s planning committee has approved plans to turn them into luxury accommodation for tourists.
Siobhan Spencer, who has lived in the village for 30 years, said locals understood tourism was part of modern life, but the proposal would see the total of village homes turned in to holiday rentals reach 25 per cent
Residents have now formed a heritage group to ensure the village retains it character.
Mrs Spencer said: “These cottages are right in the heart of the community and allowing them to be turned in to hotel rooms threatens to kill that.”
She added: “Beeley is not a very big place and it feels like the tourism aspect of Chatsworth is going to become all consuming.
“We have got real problems in the village now with people who have earned tons of money or who have retired in competition with young kids who are earning £12,000 or £14,000 a year.”
Objectors have been supported by Beeley Parish Council.
At this month’s planning meeting land agent Nick Wood told the committee that Chatsworth Estate owns 31 houses in Beeley village, 15 are occupied by estate staff and pensioners, two are let to the Devonshire Arms (one for letting and one for staff) and 12 are let on residential tenancies.
Chair John Herbert said: “We understand the concerns that residents have raised but there was no local-needs occupancy restriction attached to these dwellings so they could have been rented to people from outside the village or let out as individual holiday cottages without the need for planning permission.
“However, we are keen to make sure that local communities are consulted on plans that affect them so we are asking the Trustees to engage with residents of Beeley on the future of the village.
“There is a balance to be struck between the economic benefits of providing visitor accommodation and opportunities for local employment in the village whilst retaining smaller properties for the community. There are no restrictions on the use of the properties at present and we considered that the proposed use is acceptable.”
A REPORT from The National Housing Federation revealed almost three per cent of Derbyshire Dales houses are now second homes.
The organisation found the Dales has the highest proportion of second homes in the East Midlands, with no other area having more than one per cent.
Cllr Colin Swindell, District Council ward member for Winster and South Darley, said laws were needed to control the rise in part-time housing.
He said: “We need to strike the right balance between both homes in the village to attract tourism and support the local economy but also at the same time make sure holiday homes don’t take over villages and reduce the amount of housing for locals.
“I think anyone who wishes to convert a property in to a holiday let should be applying for change of use through the local authority.
“Winster has quite a significant number of holiday homes but it has not reached crisis point yet.
“There could come a point in the future when the number of holiday lets will impact on the sustainability of the village.
“I think it should be kept under review by parish and I welcome the review of council tax discounts.”
DERBYSHIRE Dales District Council gives a 10 per cent council tax discount on second homes.
This is the lowest level of discount the authority is currently able to give. The Government is considering a proposal to allow local authorities to lower it further, but this is not yet law.
A spokesman for the council said: “Second-home owners have to pay 90 per cent of the council tax due on their second property in the Derbyshire Dales, and we have no power to increase that proportion at the moment.
“Planning permission is not required to convert an existing residential property to a second home or holiday home, since there is no change of use in terms of planning legislation.
“I understand that the Beeley application was to change residential cottages into hotel accommodation which is a different use, and did therefore require planning permission for change of use from the National Park Authority.
“Where planning permission is required, the district council policies seek to ensure that any proposal would not have an adverse impact upon issues such as amenity, character, and appearance of surrounding properties.”
The council added that local housing remains its top priority.