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St Ives votes to ban second homes

Words: Laura Edgar

Residents in Cornish town St Ives have voted to ban the building of second homes as part of its neighbourhood plan referendum.

Town councillors and local residents put together the St Ives Area Neighbourhood Plan after a period of more than two years of gathering evidence and holding consultations.

The plan, which was voted in by 83 per cent of voters in St Ives, Carbis Bay, Lelant and Halsetown, outlines a proposal that means new housing projects would only get planning permission if homes are reserved for full-time residents.

The aim of the proposal, the plan states, 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”.

The number of second homes in St Ives totalled 25 per cent in 2011, an increase of 67 per cent since 2001, according to the plan, while over this same period, housing stock in the plan area "grew by 962 or 16 per cent, but the resident population grew by only 270 or 2.4 per cent and the number of resident households grew by less than 6 per cent".

Therefore, residents were asked whether they agreed that new housing should be designated as “principal homes”.

RLT Built Environment Limited is seeking permission to judicially review the decision made by Cornwall Council to support the publication of the St Ives Area Neighbourhood Plan and put it to a referendum in the town.

In a statement, the council said: “Following the positive result of the referendum we will be carefully considering the grounds on which the claim for the judicial review has been made and seeking further legal advice if required. We are confident that the correct process has been followed in this case and will be fully defending this claim.”

Analysis: The effect on planning


Speaking to The Planner, Christopher Balch, professor of planning, Plymouth City Council, said the use of occupancy conditions is not new to planning, citing the Linton Neighbourhood Plan. This was “one of the first to be adopted, with much less furore”, he said.

“It should be of no surprise to anyone involved in planning that communities who are now empowered to prepare their own plans under the Localism Act, are focusing on the issue of affordable housing where policy and the market is widely seen to have failed to meet local needs.”

This is seems to be the case in the more attractive parts of the South-West, Balch said, where market activity is “often driven by retirement and second home ownership involving buyers from high-value parts of the country driving prices well beyond the reach of local people”.

Balch said that those in opposition to the policy have argued that it would “choke off” the supply of new homes, while landowners and developers who have valued their assets or prepared schemes based on selling to second homes buyers will likely need to adjust expectations and address issues of viability”.

“If new home supply reduces there is a risk that unsatisfied demand could squeeze up prices in the existing housing stock, as there are always likely to be locals who will sell to the highest bidder who is likely to come from outside the community,” said Balch.

“While the second home and holiday let business is an important part of the economy of many small towns like St Ives, there is a need for coastal settlements to achieve a better balanced socio-economic structure and ensure that homes are available for local people is an important dimension.”

With “significant uncertainties” about how the policy will play out in practice, and a legal challenge already mounted, Balch said it is important that the plan is monitored closely.

However, "given that it appears to be the settled will of the local community, it should be given a chance and not prompt the Department of Communities and Local Government to start making wholesale changes to neighbourhood planning powers”.

St Ives Area Neighbourhood Plan can be found here (pdf). 

Further information can be found on Cornwall Council website.

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