Sunday, 4 November 2012

Second homes turning Cornwall into a "playground for the rich"

My column in the last edition of the Cornish Guardian focused on the impact of second homes on Cornwall and its communities. It was as follows:

According to figures released by the Office of National Statistics, Cornwall is the “second home capital” of the United Kingdom.

Statistics from the 2011 census show that 23,000 people list a “second home” in Cornwall. There are also more holiday homes in Cornwall than anywhere elsewhere.

This week, the National Housing Federation even warned that “second homes” are increasingly pricing local people out of their communities, and the countryside will “become a place for the well-off to enjoy at weekends."

The mere existence of “second homes” and their preponderance in Cornwall and elsewhere is, in my view, part and parcel of a housing market that is totally out of control.

Sadly, David Cameron and his ministers, most of whom own multiple houses, continue to reject all calls for controls on such properties.

But I am not surprised at the Prime Minister’s attitude, which has much in common with many other occasional visitors to the Duchy, such as the novelist A. N. Wilson.

Mr Wilson recently wrote a piece about how he had "agonised" about buying a “second home,” stating he initially feared he would seen as an absentee "invader." But somehow, he came to the conclusion that: "However unfair it is that some people can afford holiday homes while young locals find it impossible to get started on the property ladder, Cornwall would die without second homes."

What twaddle. I agree more with local journalist Simon Parker who publicly challenged A. N. Wilson on the matter and wrote the following:

“The last thing any struggling community needs is to be patronised and treated like a basket case by those who have, by their greed, been the architects of many of its ills. By purchasing a property in a village, holidaying there a couple of times a year, and thereby transforming that village into a playground of the rich, these leeches suck the heart out of communities.”

One thing we could do is find another way to describe “second homes.”

As the other “Guardian” put it recently: “One of the key policies of Mebyon Kernow … is to introduce planning restrictions to stop and then reverse the spread of second 'homes' – the inverted commas around homes are significant. The argument is that most of these bolt-holes are not ‘homes’ at all.”

Or as Simon Parker puts it: “While we're at it, let's lay to rest the myth that these are second ‘homes.’ The expression is a misnomer. A home is where you live, not a place you visit a couple of times a year.”

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