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High Court: St Ives second home policy lawful

Words: Laura Edgar

The High Court has found a policy in the St Ives Neighbourhood Plan that prohibits new dwellings being used as second homes to be lawful.

The town’s neighbourhood plan will be the first in the UK to require new residential dwellings to be occupied as a person’s “principal residence”, a measure designed to decrease the proportion of holiday homes in St Ives, according to Cornerstone Barristers, who defended the plan on behalf of Cornwall Council.

The Planner reported in May that residents in St Ives voted to ban the building of second homes via a policy in its neighbourhood plan.

The plan states that the aim of the proposal is to “safeguard the sustainability of the settlements in the St Ives Neighbourhood Development Plan area, whose communities are being eroded through the amount of properties that are not occupied on a permanent basis”.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom heard that the claimant, private developer RLT Built Environment Ltd, sought to challenge the making of the neighbourhood plan on the basis that there had been inadequate consideration of reasonable alternatives to the plan’s policies, contrary to the Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) Directive.

The developer argued that increasing the amount of available market housing for local people to buy was a “reasonable alternative” to the proposal in the plan.

The High Court rejected this because the policy “was not merely to make more housing available to local people but rather to reduce the proportion of second homes” in the town, according to Cornerstone.

The developer also argued that the “principal residence requirement” was an unjustified interference with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), that being the right to a home, which would be enjoyed by future occupiers of dwellings subject to restriction.

It was noted that while the Article 8 rights of a future occupier of a dwelling subject to the second home proposal might be interfered with, (if for example, unforeseen circumstance meant the occupier had to move away from St Ives), this did not mean that the polices themselves breached Article 8 ECHR.

Justice Hickinbottom said he considered the policy to be in “pursuit of legitimate public interests identified in Article 8, namely the interests of the economic well-being of the country, and for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

He therefore granted permission to proceed with the policy.

Edwina Hannaford, cabinet member for planning, Cornwall Council, said: “This is a hugely important judgement for Cornwall, St Ives Town Council and for the residents of St Ives who wanted to ensure that any new homes in the town would be the resident’s sole or main residence.”

RLT Built Environment Ltd v Cornwall Council [2016] EWHC 2817 (Admin) can be found on the Cornerstone Barristers website (pdf).

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