GOVERNMENT will have to change legislation before Dorset Council is able to fully tackle climate change and housing issues.

Council leader Spencer Flower says the authority only has limited powers to achieve some of its aims in these key areas and needs new legislation before it can act effectively.

He said it was pointless for the council to put policies in its Local Plan over issues such as second and empty homes, having solar panels on all new homes, or making developers install electric car charge points, if there was no legal status.

“If we put these things in our local plan without the support of central government they will simply get thrown out,” he said, promising to continue to advocate for the county with MPs.

His comments came out of a plea for measures to stop houses being bought up as second homes and to make local homes more environmentally friendly.

Portland councillor Paul Kimber said the issue of second homes needed to be tackled because the practise was stopping an increasing number of local people being able to afford their own home.

“I can’t help noticing that there are more and more second homes and once they’ve gone we have lost them forever to the local market…we need to concentrate on this,” he told the council’s cabinet.

The meeting heard that Purbeck had been the only area locally to press for a policy to stop homes in new developments being sold as second homes, but there was difficulties in enforcing it and the policy was almost impossible to apply to older homes.

Cabinet housing brief holder Cllr Graham Carr-Jones said he was passionate about protecting homes for local people.

He said this was the reason behind increasing the levels of council tax paid on empty properties – to deter people from leaving their properties empty.

“We have 176 which have been empty for more than two years – it’s just unacceptable,” he said, “I hope these increases will focus the minds of people who have empty homes.”

The proposal, which will go to the full council meeting on February 18th, seeks a new charge of 200per cent of the council tax for properties which have been empty for 5 years and 300 per cent for those empty for ten years or more.

Said Cllr Carr-Jones: “The aim of this initiative is to encourage the owners of these properties to bring them back on to the market, either through renting or selling the property. This supports the aspiration of the Dorset Council Plan to help deliver further housing in Dorset.

“If someone has an empty property that needs renovation, in certain circumstances it is possible to be considered for a low cost loan.”