Cornish town becomes latest to ban second homes via neighbourhood plan

Residents of a town in Cornwall have voted to adopt a neighbourhood plan that is the latest to impose a ban on the development of second homes.

Fowey: Latest Cornish parish to impose second homes ban. Image: Flickr / Alistair Young
Fowey: Latest Cornish parish to impose second homes ban. Image: Flickr / Alistair Young

A referendum on the Fowey Neighbourhood Development Plan was held last Thursday (27 February) and saw 90 per cent of 633 residents vote in favour of its adoption.

Prepared by Fowey Town Council, the plan states: "New open market housing will only be permitted where there is a condition restricting occupancy as a Principal Residence."

At least five other neighbourhood plans containing similar policies, restricting the use of newly built properties as second homes, have been adopted in Cornwall in recent years.

The first was St Ives, whose neighbourhood plan was backed in a referendum in May 2016 and survived a High Court challenge in November that year.

Outlining justification for the second homes policy, the Fowey neighbourhood plan cites a 2011 census estimate that says second homes comprise 26.5 per cent of the town's housing stock.

"One impact of second homes is to force up property prices beyond the reach of local people," the plan says.

According to the document, nearly 80 per cent of respondents to a 2015 community questionnaire agreed that limits should be imposed on the growth of second home ownership in Fowey.

The second homes policy states that owners of new homes with the principal residence condition attached will be required to "keep proof that they are meeting the condition". 

Evidence can include residents being registered on the local electoral register and using local services such as healthcare facilities and schools, the plan says.

In an examination report published in September 2019, an inspector warned that the second homes policy had "serious implications" and required "strong evidence to support the imposition of such a restriction".

The inspector noted community support for the policy and said she was satisfied that the number of empty or second homes was "having a negative impact on the community and local economy".

She added that she had considered the 2016 High Court judgement that concluded a similar policy in the St Ives neighbourhood plan had been imposed "in pursuit of legitimate public interests".

The Fowey neighbourhood plan states that Cornwall Cornwall has confirmed the parish does not need to deliver any new dwellings over the plan period to 2030, because it sits within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

"However, it is acknowledged that there is a local housing need across the parish," the plan states, adding that small scale development will be supported "to provide affordable housing for local need" and to "accommodate the changing requirements of full time residents".

A Planning feature examining how communities are using neighbourhood plans to block second homes can be found here.

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