An organisation set up to build a living and working countryside has called for changes in the planning system to give rural communities a say over the number of second homes in their area.
The Rural Coalition - which represents 13 national organisations including the NFU, the Housing Federation, the Rural Services Network and ACRE, Action for Communities in Rural England - is asking political parties to address the needs of rural communities in their election manifestos and to take action if they form the government after the General Election in May 2015.
As well as pressing for action to provide more affordable housing, to improve rural health services and to boost the economy in rural areas, the Rural Coalition’s Rural Challenge 2015 report specifically calls for changes to the planning system when it comes to second homes.
The organisation says that the next government should “require ‘change of use’ permission for new second homes in rural and coastal areas where there is a shortage of local housing and a high density of second homes.”
Cornish Liberal Democrat MP and Government Minister for Rural Affairs, Dan Rogerson, who has long campaigned for greater controls over second homes, attended the launch of the report on 3rd December and welcomed its recommendation on changing the planning system.
Some parishes in Mr Rogerson’s North Cornwall constituency have a second home rate of around 40%. Cornwall Council figures state that that St Minver Lowlands parish has 42.9% second homes and St Minver Highlands has 37.9%, with St Merryn on 38.4%, Padstow at 29.3%, with St Endellion parish on 34.9%.
Speaking at the launch of the Rural Challenge 2015 report in Westminster this week, Dan said, “Whilst we need to build more affordable housing for local people to rent and buy, it is clear that the issue of second homes has long been part of the housing problem here in North Cornwall. We know that a high rate of second homes stops local people being able to afford to live in their own community and can have a massive impact on rural services like schools, shops and bus routes.
“If this was a Liberal Democrat Government I have no doubt that we would have seen changes in the planning system to give rural communities a say over the number of second homes in their area. In Coalition Government my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I have continued to fight for changes to the planning and tax systems to give people a say over second homes.
“However, from the outset and throughout this Coalition the Conservative Party has failed to listen to people in Cornwall and have blocked Lib Dem plans to require planning permission before you can turn a home into a second home.
“This simple change in the law would give local people a say, through the planning process, about whether or not they want more second homes in their community. Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for this change, and I am pleased that we have the backing of the Rural Coalition.”