Monday, 22 October 2012

Second homes time for action!

Today the ONS released details from last years census of the number of people who own a second home in Cornwall but reside elsewhere. I was truly astonished at the scale of non residential holiday homes here in Kernow, nearly 23,000 people have one here, more than any local authority in England and Wales.  As a comparison that's more people than live in Bodmin (14,700), Hayle (9,500), Helston (11,500), Newquay (20,600), Penzance, (including Heamoor, Newlyn, Gulval, Long Rock and Ludgvan)  (21,500) and slightly less than the combined population  of Truro and Threemilestone (23,600) source. So the entire population of Penzance -and the surrounding area- could leave their houses and find new accommodation and the majority of those second home owners wouldn't be any the wiser until next summer.

This is staggering and at a time when nearly 20,000 people are on Cornwall Council's waiting list (plus more not on the list). Cornwall Council keeps insisting to fill these demands to find people homes we will have to have large scale developments on green field land. Or indeed using play parks, green spaces and large gardens on housing estates to build more houses/ ghettos. It is obvious that this is not the case we need not sacrifice large amounts of green spaces and prime agricultural land we need not build huge conurbations to meet the needs of Cornwall's resident population. There is adequate housing in Cornwall.

I wrote about this subject over 12 months ago, Cornwall and the blight of second homes, and there are options to limit second homes, there are ways to ensure houses are not treated as a commodity or status symbol for London's elites, but are homes for families to live in all year around. There are incentives that can be made to encourage people to stay in hotels rather than under using residential properties. If people are not willing it is within the realms of the compulsory purchase act to buy these second homes with or without the consent of the owners. The time has come for politicians to actually do something out of these many options, to finally put the people of Cornwall first.

What really winds me up from 2010 till now is that Mebyon Kernow had in our 2010 manifesto that second homes needed to be dealt with and one of the ways to do this was to make it a legal requirement that planning permission was needed to change the houses use from residential to second home. As sure as a cat chases a mouse the Liberal Democrats copied the idea and incorporated it into their campaign. I'm not completely partisan if they had done something about it, I would be happy but alas nothing. Despite promises to the electorate not even a peep, despite being in government and all the powers and privileges that entails they have not even mentioned it in the corridors of power. In much the same way as they did nothing about it for the four years they controlled both the old Cornwall County Council and all 5 of Cornwall's MPs were yellow.

The arguments for second homes are neatly summed up in this BBC Cornwall article from Plymouth Second Homes a Double Edged Sword in Rock, very disappointingly arguments for second homes are not contested and dominate the piece. One trader explains that second home owners are everything for their trade. This oft repeated line is that second home owners far from being a drain on communities actually use local shops and pubs. They employ local workmen to work on their homes providing a valuable economic boost. Without second homes (perhaps this is just obvious to me) full time residents would use shops, pubs and get their homes worked on all year. Leaving the second home owners to stay in hotels and B&Bs, shop in the same shops, drink in the same pubs and the workmen would have work with the extra wear and tear on where they are staying.

The time for talk on second homes is over, the authorities in Truro and in London need to accept that this is a problem and that something needs to be done.