One of the things I have been looking forward to since I returned to the backbenches in Parliament is being able to apply for a lead debates on issues important to our constituency. Last week I was pleased to secure and lead a debate in Parliament on housing provision in tourist destinations.
Housing issues in general are one of things raised most often to me by local people, and these issues are particularly keenly felt in tourist areas, such as Newquay, Fowey and Mevagissey, predominantly coastal communities that are particularly attractive places to live in and visit.
In the debate I made it clear that while tourism and hospitality are vital parts of our economy in Mid-Cornwall, both for those who work in tourism and hospitality businesses, and also those who supply them, there has to be a balance to this, and in recent years in some communities this has tipped too far in favour of second homes and short term holiday let accommodation, meaning local people who would otherwise live and work in these towns and villages all year round are finding it increasingly difficult to do so.
In the debate I highlighted examples of this, instances of local businesses and public services—ranging from hotels to our schools and hospitals—being unable to recruit key staff, with the lack of available housing given as the main reason why they cannot recruit or why people cannot move to start work.
I also highlighted the percentage of second homes and holiday lets in these communities, in comparison, to the significant numbers of people we currently have on the housing register in Cornwall, and the numbers of short-term holiday let accommodation listings on Airbnb and the like (18,989) compared to long term rent listings on Rightmove (895).
With that being said, the Government has taken more steps to address the situation than any other Government, and I highlighted some of these in my debate. The Government has closed the business rate loophole, which allowed second homeowners to claim that their properties were holiday lets and therefore qualify for small business rate relief, paying neither council tax nor business rates and contributing nothing to local services.
The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, which became law earlier this year makes provision for local authorities like Cornwall Council to charge double council tax on second homes. People who own second homes and do not rent them out to local people should rightly pay more to make up for the fact that those properties have been removed from primary occupancy. That was the right thing to do, and the Government did it. Cornwall Council is keen to apply the provision as soon as possible because it will bring in an anticipated extra £20 million income a year, which can go back into the provision of services for taxpayers in our Duchy.
It will also allow Cornwall Council the power to compile a full register of holiday lets for the first time, which will give them a full and accurate picture of exactly how many properties in the communities they serve are being used as holiday lets. Knowing how many holiday lets there are is the first step towards being able to better manage their number in our communities
The Government have consulted on giving powers to local councils to require a change of planning permission when homes are taken out of residential use and converted to holiday lets. If planning permission was granted to build a house to be somebody’s home and the new owner wishes to change its use to a holiday let, which is essentially a business use, a change of use should be required. We insist on that for all sorts of other businesses, and I believe the same should apply to holiday lets.
These measures will improve the situation significantly. In the debate I asked that the Minister ensure that these consultations are replied to as soon as possible, to allow local authorities to register of holiday lets and the planning change of use requirements to be implemented.
We need to work together to ensure that it improves as soon as possible and I will continue working in Parliament and in Cornwall to make this happen.
As ever, my office is available for any constituents needing help, advice or guidance. Please do get in touch if I can help – tel. 01726 829379, email – email@example.com