Page last updated at 18:38 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Battle lines over second homes

By Jonathan Morris
BBC News South West

East Portlemouth
Some East Portlemouth second home owners fought affordable homes plans

Second home owners in the South West have probably never had such a high profile as in the past month.

In picturesque Helford in Cornwall second home owners took the lead in rejecting an application by fishermen for a jetty.

Then owners of second homes were among those who tried and failed to block an application for six affordable homes in similarly picturesque East Portlemouth in Devon.

And most recently, second home owners have been told to "go home" in a series of graffiti attacks at a development in Worth Matravers in Dorset.

Second home owners in the region have been blamed for raising house prices and taking housing for local people.

I hope the East Portlemouth scheme will set a precedent
Councillor Julian Brazil

And without doubt, the region's traditionally low average wages make high house prices even harder to bear.

Almost one in 10 houses in the South Hams area of Devon, which includes East Portlemouth, belong to second home owners, so they have become an easy target.

Councillor Julian Brazil, who backed the affordable homes in East Portlemouth, told BBC News that local authorities needed to take a tougher stance in pushing through affordable housing schemes, including compulsory purchase orders.

He said: "I have parish schemes that every time they go to the council, they say that they cannot support it.

"I hope the East Portlemouth scheme will set a precedent and more landowners will join in by offering land for affordable housing."

Slogan daubed in Worth Matravers in Dorset
A message aimed at second home owners in Dorset. Photo: Roy Pritchard

In Cornwall there are two schemes which have benefited from benevolent farmers offering land for low-cost housing.

The St Minver Community Land Trust is helping 12 local people build their own homes and buy them at much less than the market price after retired farmer David Wills sold it the land at a fraction of the commercial value.

In St Just in Roseland in Cornwall, farmer Tony Chart sold about an acre of land for 30,000 to Carrick District Council which is building eight three-bed homes for local people.

At East Portlemouth landowner Isobel Waterhouse created a charitable land trust to build six homes for rent.

A number of second home owners including TV presenter Steve Rider objected, but the trust won planning permission.

Mr Brazil said: "If we can keep the momentum going, hopefully these will not be one-offs."

Young people move away from these idyllic retreats for the very reasons second home owners are attracted to them
Statement on

The Department of Communities and Local Government said that it had already taken steps to help rural areas increase housing supply.

New rules meant councils could identify sites specifically for local homes and allow more Community Land Trusts to deliver affordable housing where it was needed.

But second home owners deny that they are making life worse for local people.

They say on the website that second homeowners are usually attracted to rural retreats in picturesque locations, where there are few local employment opportunities, and even fewer local amenities.

"Young people move away from these idyllic retreats for the very reasons second home owners are attracted to them, as young people move to urban areas with better job prospects and more opportunities to socialise."

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