Posted by: Jules Birch25/03/2009
The report by Liberal Democrat MP Matthew Taylor had recommended a trial of new planning rules in one or more of the National Parks limiting change of use of full-time homes to part-time occupation as second homes or holiday lets.
It was hardly a radical recommendation - many of the national parks are already doing much the same on new homes - but it was the least that people in scenic areas of England were demanding. Only last week the issue hit the headlines when vandals daubed slogans on new luxury homes in one Dorset village.
The government’s own rural advocate, the Commission for Rural Communities, says that lack of affordable housing is ‘the single most pressing issue faced by rural communities’.
‘In many rural areas it has now become almost impossible for the local postman, farm worker or teacher to be able to buy a home,’ said CRC chairman Stuart Burgess. ‘Despite the recession and falling house prices, tighter lending and a requirement for higher deposits mean that for many rural people an affordable home remains a distant dream.’
The government accepted almost all of Taylor’s recommendations apart from the one on second homes. According to the Communities and Local Government department statement: ‘The review itself acknowledged the real issues of practicality such a policy may face, and the government believes there are more innovative ways of providing the affordable homes that rural communities need without interfering with the legitimate rights of second home owners.’
The report did indeed acknowledge ‘real issues of practicality’ but concluded that there was a case to be made for limiting further conversion of full-time homes into second homes and holiday lets in the most stressed areas. As I read it, that would leave people free to buy properties that are already second homes - just not free to out-bid locals for new ones.
Seen from Westminster the rejection of that idea may seem to make some kind of sense. But seen from villages where up to half of homes are empty most of the year and which can no longer support basic shops and services, the government’s refusal to even consider a trial looks like craven surrender to the leader writers of the right-wing press.
From Inside edge
Housing commentator Jules Birch puts the latest news in context