Labour pledges holiday let licensing scheme to guard against ‘ghost towns’

Labour has said it would bring in a licensing system for holiday lets to preserve the “spirit” of costal and rural communities.

Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy announced the plans during a speech in Darlington, in which she also alleged the Conservative leadership contest had exposed the Tories’ commitment to levelling up is “dead”.

Ms Nandy said Labour’s licensing scheme would allow areas to “to reap the rewards of thriving tourism”, while guarding against “ghost towns” when people’s holiday breaks draw to a close.

“With a stronger licensing system, communities will be able to reap the rewards of thriving tourism but end the scourge of communities becoming ghost towns when holidays end and people are priced out of their own neighbourhoods just for homes to stand empty for months,” she said.

“By trusting the community, working with the community, we can find the right balance to bring growth and jobs and income, but protect the spirit and the fabric of a community that matter so much.”

Ms Nandy also set out plans for a strengthened community right to buy to enable local people to take control of assets such as live music venues and football clubs that come up for sale or fall into disrepair.

Under the proposals, they would be given first refusal on assets of community value, including the right to buy them without competition.

Communities would also have the right to force a sale of land or buildings that have fallen into a state of significant disrepair, and they will be given 12 months to raise finance, a doubling of the current allowance.

Meanwhile, Ms Nandy accused the remaining Tory leadership contenders of having abandoned Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda in the race to promise tax cuts.

She argued that the UK is stuck in a “high tax, low growth spiral” from which the only escape is for all parts of the country to be able to make a contribution again.

“Those voices in the Tory Party who did try to advance the levelling up agenda have been roundly defeated and now the ugly truth of all of this is on display as leadership contenders vie for the mantle of Margaret Thatcher, promising tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, and more managed decline for the rest of us,” she said.

“This leadership contest looks set to be the final nail in the coffin for the Conservatives’ short-lived ambitions to level up. Promises that were made with a bang are now fading with a whimper, half-baked ideas that barely made it into the oven.”

“But while the Tories’ commitment to levelling up may be dead, levelling up is not dead, not for the millions of people across our country who voted for change and who need and deserve to see it delivered.”

She said it “falls to Labour to meet this moment”.

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford during a visit to the Botanic Gardens at Middleton Hall, Llanarthne
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has announced plans to introduce a statutory licensing scheme for all visitor accommodation (Matthew Horwood/PA)

Levelling Up Secretary Greg Clark said: “These claims are nonsense – we’re pressing full steam ahead with levelling up and the second round of our £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund opened on Friday.

“Our Community Ownership Fund is also helping local people take control of clubs, venues and other prized assets.”

It comes after Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford announced plans to introduce a statutory licensing scheme for all visitor accommodation, including short-term holiday lets, to help raise standards across the tourism industry.

In June, the Government said it was looking into the impact of short-term and holiday lets in England’s tourist hotspots.

Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston said a newly launched review sought to “reap the benefits of the boom in short-term holiday lets while protecting community interests and making sure England has high-quality tourist accommodation”.

The Government is considering a self-certification scheme under which hosts would register before they could operate, as well as a similar programme with “light-touch checks” incorporated into the process.