Tuesday, 18 January 2022


On one of my walks during the Christmas and New Year break, I found myself in a cove in West Cornwall. It included a farm complex, which was fenced off and clearly no longer being used for agricultural purposes.

It was a National Trust property and there was a notice which stated that the most recent farm tenancy had ended in October 2018. It added the Trust had a “great opportunity” to manage the farmland “with nature as a priority.”

I understand that the larger modern farm buildings are to be removed and the Trust is investigating ideas for how the older traditional farm buildings could be used to “improve the visitor welcome” to the local area. The farmhouse has already been turned into a holiday let, with the promotional blurb for the Listed house specifying that income raised will “help support important conservation work.”

I would not question the Trust’s commitment to sustainable farming and the protection of historic landscapes and biodiversity enhancements.

But it fills me with sadness to see the loss of another historic holding, where generations have farmed the land. I am very much of the view that organisations seeking to safeguard the countryside, also need to protect the fabric of the human communities that occupy the same space. It is therefore counter-productive and damaging every time a permanent home is lost to become a “second home” or holiday let.

I understand why this happens – it is a financial decision! I had a look at the National Trust’s portfolio of holiday properties and the farmhouse would cost between £1,999 and £3,299 to book it out for a week’s holiday.

The Trust’s website lists over 500 holiday cottages across Cornwall, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Of these, 108 are in Cornwall, which seems to be a very high share of the overall number (at over 20%).

On its site, the National Trust also notes that it owns around 5,000 houses/cottages and aims to be a “professional and fair landlord” that provides “warm, comfortable homes at a fair market rent for people in more than 40 villages.” Its “overall objectives for housing” include seeking to further its work in local areas “through the selection of tenants with suitable skills” and to help “meet identified social housing needs” where it is a significant housing provider.

I have to ask whether the National Trust’s approach to housing in Cornwall is similar or dissimilar to what it does in other parts of the UK? I have written to the Trust to find out and I will report back when I know more.

This was my column in the Cornish Guardian newspaper dated 5th January 2022.

No comments: