St Ives bans second homes

It is likely that a ban on second homes will be rolled out across Cornwall, as a further five parishes submit plans to this effect.

This is following the successful implementation of the measure in St Ives.

Change is being called for by residents in the county’s south-east, on the Rame peninsula. This has been induced by fears that the high level of second home ownership will result in communities being destroyed.

Earlier in 2016, St Ives held a referendum on the issue after residents had contested that a growth in people purchasing holiday homes had reduced the level of affordable homes for locals. Over 80% of those who voted were in favour of the change.

Commenting on the implementation of the measure in St Ives was Paul Grant. The Associate Solicitor at leading law firm Coffin Mew expressed the significance of communities having a voice: “The introduction of the restriction shows the emerging importance of Neighbourhood Plans and the voice that these give to local communities. Cornwall has experienced an exponential increase in second home ownership over the last 20 years and the resulting increase in house prices mean that local first time buyers are often priced out of the market. The policy is a clear reaction to that problem.”

In order to ensure implementation of the measure was to be lawful, correct procedures would have to be followed by the parishes. If a neighbourhood plan gathers more than 50% of voter support, the Localism Act 2011 states that a local planning authority must put it in place.

Grant continued: “Neighbourhood Plans follow a set legal process before they are adopted, and as part of the planning policy for the local area need to be taken seriously by local planning authorities and business interests alike.

“The plan in question has clearly had a high degree of local interest and involvement, and this is precisely the sort of localism in action that the conservative government has encouraged.”

Plans have been submitted by officials from the five parishes of the Rame peninsula, which has a higher rate of second-home ownership than St Ives. These plans call for any new properties to be sold only to buyers who intend to use them as a primary residence.

The measure’s extended proposal follows the ban in St Ives being ruled as lawful last week by the High Court. RLT Built Environment LTD, an architectural firm based in Penzance, had challenged the decision of the council to permit the referendum result to be allowed and claimed the restrictions amounted to a human rights breach as well as being disproportionate.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom stated that he was “unimpressed” by arguments that no real harm was done to the town through the purchase of second and holiday homes. It is possible that additional tourist areas across the country will seek to copy St Ives.

Two of the five Rame peninsula parishes possess the largest number of second homes in Cornwall. 39.9% of homes in the St John Parish are second homes, according to statistics from 2009 – the most recent available. In Maker with Rame, this figure is 33.3%.

In 2011, the parishes joined Millbrook, Sheviock and Antony, in order to form a plan on how the community could develop in a unified way. From this, it became evident that second home ownership had become a prominent concern.

Commenting on the need for the issue to be brought under control was George Trubody. The councillor and the chairman of the Rame Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan Parish Cluster Steering Group stated: “In order to give local families a chance of having their own home, our first policy was, and still is, a control on future second homes on the peninsula.

“From all the consultation events and evidence gathered, our community is adamant that we have enough second homes and something needs to be done.”

In 2005, restrictions were put in place for people seeking to purchase homes and barn conversions in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Following complaints from residents that wealthy outsiders were pricing locals out of the market, sales were reserved for those who already live or work within the area.

10 years earlier, a similar rule had also been introduced by the Peak District. New homes could only be purchased by those who had lived in the area for a decade since 2005.

Associate solicitor, Paul Grant concluded by expressing his views on potential consequences for those that breach the restrictions: “It remains to be seen to what extent enforcement action may be taken against those who are in breach of the restriction, and what action will be expected to be taken to ensure compliance. Also, who will enforcement action be taken against? From a strict legal point of view, the restriction will only bite against those in occupation, so this would affect those who have bought new properties from developers who will not be living in them as their principal residence. Perhaps the ultimate effect will be to depress house prices in those areas where such restrictions are in place.”

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