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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 10:20 GMT
Plight of 'ghost village'
East Portlemouth
East Portlemouth feels almost deserted in winter
The exodus of young people from a Devon village is sending a warning to other South West communities hit by rising houses prices and the influx of second home owners.

According to the parish council of East Portlemouth, a village near Salcombe in south Devon, 62% of houses in the village are now second homes, the highest proportion in the UK.

There are already about 23,500 second homes in Devon and Cornwall and estate agents in the region say demand is stronger than last year.

But the knock-on affect of soaring prices is causing heartbreak for young people who have been forced out.

East Portlemouth parish council leader Rufus Gilbert, said: "There are some homes in the village that are almost never used.

When it gets to the level of erosion such as ours, the village has more or less died
Rufus Gilbert

"There are several that are worth over 1m and they are the ones that are used the least.

"Second home owners do bring some good to the community because they shop here and they eat here.

"But unfortunately the effects on the village are appalling.

"In the winter there used to be plenty of lights on but now there are hardly any at all. It is very very quiet.

"We are a very isolated community and there's very little work here, but when it gets to the level of erosion such as ours, the village has more or less died."

Go to East Portlemouth during the day in January and you are immediately struck by a feeling that the village has gone into hibernation.

Some workmen doing up a beach cafe were the only signs of human life.

Tris Stone
All my friends have moved away
Tris Stone
Boatbuilder Tris Stone, 22, repairs sailing boats in the village.

No-one else under the age of 25 remains.

J Stone Yacht Marine has been in existence in the village, handed down through the family to Mr Stone, since the 1930s.

But there is no hope of Mr Stone being able to afford a house in the area.

House prices in the fashionable area around Salcombe and East Portlemouth have more than doubled since 1999 and yet wages are some of the lowest nationally - an average of 17,000 a year.

He said: "In the summer it's heaving and you can't even get in the pubs.

"But in the winter, it's deadly. All my friends have moved away.

"I have to go to Plymouth or Torquay to go out for the evening - even Salcombe is empty in the winter."

He added: "I want to stay down here - it's a place I love - but prices have gone through the roof."

In the past few weeks all the people I have been showing around properties have been from outside the area
Estate agent Patrick Hennessey
It is thought the increased interest in second homes has been spurred on in part by an expectation of big bonus payouts in the city of London and low interest rates.

Patrick Hennessey, of Bentley Cavendish estate agents in Barnstaple, said: "There are many more people looking for second homes than this time last year, from Barnstaple to Bideford.

"In the past few weeks all the people I have been showing around properties have been from outside the area."

Many district councils in Devon and Cornwall have raised the amount they collect from second home owners in council tax, from 50% to 90% of the full rate.

The housing authorities aim to use the money to build affordable homes for local people.

But a row has developed in Cornwall over how much of the windfall the district councils should receive.

Cornwall County Council has offered 75% of the extra receipts, with the rest going into county council coffers.

But the district councils want all the extra revenue, which across Devon and Cornwall could amount to 10m over five years.

Rufus Gilbert
"All the little things that make a community thrive and enjoyable steadily get eroded until the whole village is atrophied"

Row over second homes windfall
14 Jan 04  |  Devon
Council cuts tax discount
23 Dec 03  |  Devon
Warning over council tax rise
20 Nov 03  |  Devon
Tax rise for second homes
06 Nov 03  |  Devon
Anger grows over second homes
27 Oct 03  |  Cornwall

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