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Councils warned against ‘knee-jerk reactions’ in second-homes debate

Lisa Evans
Lisa Evans

[C]ouncils across Cumbria are being urged not to rush into placing restrictions on second home ownership, as debate around a controversial new scheme in Cornwall escalates.

Commercial property lawyer Lisa Evans, from leading law firm Kirwans, has spoken out following the decision by residents in St Ives, Cornwall, to ban outsiders from buying new-build homes unless they intend to live in them.

St Ives Council held a referendum on its new Neighbourhood Plan in response to the lack of affordable housing in the town, coupled with a surge in holiday homes.

A total of 83% of voters backed the proposals to allow only full-time residents to own new-build properties in St Ives and Carbis Bay.

The move has attracted much interest from some of the country’s most popular holiday regions, but Lisa has warned councils not to follow St Ive’s lead and risk a costly legal battle until it has been determined whether the enactment is even permissible.

Lisa said: “I believe a legal challenge has already been made by a Cornwall-based architect’s firm to establish whether the move is actually legal, and there is talk of developers threatening to stop building local homes in the area, which would render the ban futile.

“While measures clearly need to be taken to help those who are in the desperately sad situation of not being able to afford to start on the property ladder in their home towns, restricting the number of second homeowners in an area is a strategy that needs to be clearly thought through.

“There are clearly benefits to the scheme, and it could be that this move proves to be the answer for many long-suffering locals, but we must be aware that limiting this type of property owner also limits the amount of investment that they bring with them, which is much needed by the local tourism sector.

“Local councils need to watch and learn from the St Ives case, while looking at initiatives that would see local residents and second-homeowners working together to ensure that communities are not left decimated.”

House prices in the region saw the biggest annual rise since the start of the 2008 financial crisis in the 12 months leading up to March this year, with official Land Registry figures revealing that the average sale price jumped by 5.4%, from £118,210 to £124,631.

The sudden rise was believed to be in part due to the introduction in April of a stamp duty surcharge on second and buy-to-let homes.

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