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Calls for high taxes on second homes in Devon and Cornwall

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 02, 2013

By Phil Goodwin

SirAndrewMotion

Sir Andrew Motion

Comments (37)

Former poet laureate and countryside campaigner Sir Andrew Motion has launched an all-out attack on second home owners and called for a tax hike on "townies in the countryside".

The president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) blamed those with a second home for ''gutting" rural communities and helping to create a housing shortage which has left many Westcountry families unable to step onto the property ladder.

He has re-ignited the row over holiday homes as David Cameron faces pressure from Cornwall Council to change the law regarding second homes and holiday-lets

Councillors in the Duchy, where 28,957 homes stand empty most of the year, many of them second homes, want to make it necessary to have planning permission to own a home which is not a main residence.

Sir Andrew, who lives in London, did not call for a ban on second home ownership, but said he would "increase taxes on second homes to make it very expensive".

''I think there's a question about whether second homes mean you have inert dormitory communities in the countryside through most of the week, very often lived in by people who scoot down in their cars, see their smart friends, don't join in the life of the community and don't feed into it," he told The Times newspaper.

''They're townies in the countryside, they make sure they're back in London in time to catch the 10 o'clock news on Sunday night – that means rural communities are gutted."

Cornwall has the highest level of second home ownership in the country, and Devon is towards the top of the table for part-time residences.

Some 26,000 properties are registered as second properties in the two counties.

Cornwall Council wrote to the Prime Minister, his deputy Nick Clegg, Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles and all six Cornish MPs last week asking them to support an addition to the planning laws.

Under the proposal second home owners and people who own holiday-lets would need a "change of use" consent in the same way a shop would need permission to become a gallery or take-away restaurant.

Andrew Wallis, independent councillor for Porthleven, is behind the move and was the author of a proposal which won the backing of the full council at a meeting in Truro in February and has support from St Ives Lib Dem MP Andrew George.

Councillor Wallis welcomed the recent intervention by the former Poet Laureate, but said his characterisation of second home owners was a "generalisation".

Mr Wallis said there were plenty of second home owners and holiday home owners who did contribute to the local economy, adding that a "balance needed to be struck".

"I am not sure it is fair to tax someone more when what we actually want to do is tax protect the community" he said.

"If we overtax those people who do contribute and use shops and restaurants they may well stop doing so." Second homes were for many years easily identified by councils as discounts of between 50% and 90% were allowed on homes designated as a second residence.

However, this discount has now been scrapped in Cornwall and parts of Devon, making it difficult to keep accurate figures.

Mr Wallis says the council's proposed change to planning laws has received the blessing of planning officials as workable within the law but has not been fleshed out.

However, he believes that communities suffer when more than 20% of residences are second homes and thinks this figure could be used by planning committees to limit the number.

And if the measure ever came into effect, it could be applied retrospectively. "It is for the Government to agree in principle to introduce some form of control into the market," he added.

"Councils could then introduce policies to stop communities being destroyed."

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37 comments

  • BobToronto  |  April 02 2013, 1:35PM

    Adding to 'storks' comments which I agree with. Most people in the UK live in houses, small, old, row or semi-detached. They park their cars on the street cluttering the road for other users. Many are old and badly insulated I live in the second largest, by area, country in the world with a population less than half that on the UK. However I live on the 26th floor of an highrise with parking on four basement levels for residents, their visitors, and shoppers (there are many shops, bank, and some restaurants and professional offices on the lower floors including a large supermarket). I have access to the subway station without going outside. Why are there few apartment buildings in the UK? Four or five storey complexes along bus routes or near or above rail stations would make a great difference to the housing problem in the UK. I suspect planning restrictions. Someone should tell readers how many five plus storey apartment buildings are in Truro or Falmouth excluding council slums Food for thought

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  • aardvaark1  |  April 02 2013, 1:27PM

    I work for a new company that is looking to invest in Devon/Cornwall to provide freehold affordable property and also 12 month holiday let. The amount of red tape that has already to be dealt with is ridiculous and any increase along with increased costs may put us off as developers. We also have a strong company policy that we will use local businesses, in not only the construction, but maintenance, as well as running extra bus services for our sites and local population. We are committed to supporting the local economy and have our owners become fully immersed in the local areas. This issue has to be sensibly approached, but taxing people out of the area is not the way to do it, ESPECIALLY retrospective taxation. We have worked very closely with councils to ensure that the local area is not adversely affected, but improved for the benefit of all. We are expecting to employ 200+ people over the next two years. 200 more people that may be able to get on the property ladder and contribute positively to the local economy. My partner and myself are planning to move in the very near future to Cornwall and if we do have a second home we will build it. More holiday makers means more money for local business!!!

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  • aardvaark1  |  April 02 2013, 1:26PM

    I work for a new company that is looking to invest in Devon/Cornwall to provide freehold affordable property and also 12 month holiday let. The amount of red tape that has already to be dealt with is ridiculous and any increase along with increased costs may put us off as developers. We also have a strong company policy that we will use local businesses, in not only the construction, but maintenance, as well as running extra bus services for our sites and local population. We are committed to supporting the local economy and have our owners become fully immersed in the local areas. This issue has to be sensibly approached, but taxing people out of the area is not the way to do it, ESPECIALLY retrospective taxation. We have worked very closely with councils to ensure that the local area is not adversely affected, but improved for the benefit of all. We are expecting to employ 200+ people over the next two years. 200 more people that may be able to get on the property ladder and contribute positively to the local economy. My partner and myself are planning to move in the very near future to Cornwall and if we do have a second home we will build it. More holiday makers means more money for local business!!!

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  • arblast  |  April 02 2013, 11:21AM

    People that buy second homes put wealth into the country, get over it.

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  • Stork  |  April 02 2013, 11:08AM

    The price of most things in life, is down to supply and demand. There is a demand for all types of housing in the UK. Small houses, big houses, OAP bungalows, one and two bedroom flats,etc. However, since the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, the supply of land throughout virtually the whole of the UK, has been tightly regulated by the Planners on a drip feed basis. Construction companies in the 1960's were complaining to the various UK Governments about the need to build more houses. When I started off in the construction industry in early 1960's, the average price of a building plot was "about" 15% to 20% of the final cost of the house selling price. Because of the almost constant shortage of building plots/land. Today's plot prices are often as much as 50% of the house selling price. Building costs (pro rata) haven't risen that much over the years, it's the land price and land shortage that has left many first time buyers behind. Until more land becomes available, this will continue. The population of the UK is increasing, there are many more single parent families looking for homes. Many people say that no more homes should be built, anywhere. Where should people live then ? Where will your children live when and if they want a place of their own ? Make more land available, plot prices will fall, especially if there is an annual tax on building land ( land banks), which is not being built on. Solving the " affordable housing " problem is quite easy really, it's not rocket science.

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  • KJHXXX  |  April 02 2013, 9:34AM

    Well here we go again. Second home bashing! Let's remember that it was a local person selling to an 'incomer' in the first place that caused the problem. It's called a free market economy. I am free to spend my money on whatever I want, and you are free to sell your house to whomever you want for what ever price, so next time you want to sell your house, sell it cheap to a local and don't take the market rate for it.. ok? Didn't think so. Cornwall has been let down by poor legislation. What's needed is NEW AFFORDABLE HOUSING with local occupancy covenants. Problem solved. This is done elsewhere in the UK. Prove that you live / work / local ties before being able to buy an affordable house. These properties are then removed from the 'second homers' shopping list and prices remain realistic. Easy.

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  • Fistral20  |  April 02 2013, 7:58AM

    It's good to see so many positive comments on here from and supporting second home owners, Motion's comments show what an idiot he is by assuming it's only Londoners who own second homes. The anti brigade constantly raise the same arguments about outsiders ruining villages etc but as someone has commented, if the locals didn't sell to them and rake in pocket fulls of cash, maybe this problem wouldn't arise in the first place. It's always so convenient for the Cornish to blame everyone else for the problems, maybe we should start lookimg a bit closer to home for the real solution to this problem.

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  • break  |  April 01 2013, 11:57PM

    I can imagine that Cameron thought of this idea,so he got one of his rich sir friends to give this story a bit more publicity so everyone can see how much he cares about us poor country folk.

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  • Nescra  |  April 01 2013, 10:50PM

    Yes it's hard to buy because of second homes, but if it wasn't for all the holiday makers staying in these second homes, ( spending more money per person than us locals would per week) then we would not have half as much money in the local areas to be able to buy the homes anyway!!!

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  • Syrrets  |  April 01 2013, 10:29PM

    Totally agree with Sir Andrew Motion - before we concrete over yet more countryside and destroy yet more wildlife habitat to build new houses we should better utilise our existing housing stock by reducing empty houses and second home ownership. Locally employed people should have priority to housing in villages.

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