Gordon Brown is considering a crackdown on second-home owners accused of turning desirable rural areas into ghost towns.

The government suggests the 240,000 second-home owners in England, who use holiday cottages and farmhouses in popular places for only part of the year, are pushing prices beyond the reach of local families, which means schools could close and village shops and pubs shut outside peak season.

Now an inquiry commissioned by the Prime Minister could lead to councils banning the wealthy from buying homes that are not their main residences.

Led by Liberal Democrat Truro and St Austell MP Matthew Taylor, the inquiry is expected to highlight second-home ownership as a ‘serious concern’ requiring radical action.

Under the proposals to be given to Mr Brown, those wanting to buy a second house in the country would have to apply first to the council for permission to do so. Planning permission would be required to change a house from full occupation to a second home – or it could be refused entirely.

‘For the rural communities that are affected, this is a massive issue. This measure would allow local authorities to say that a property cannot be converted from a fulltime home into a second home. In some communities, 30% of the village is dark most of the year,’ says Mr Taylor.

There already have been changes in Capital Gains Tax that come into force next month where second home sellers will pay an 18% levy instead of the current 40% figure. The government’s rural advocate Stuart Burgess is currently heading up a protest to halt this reduction.