Cornish locals demand second home owners PAY BACK £100m Covid grants

Cornwall residents’ fury at county’s wealthy second home owners as they demand those who use their properties as an ‘investment or leisure toy’ PAY BACK £100m of Covid relief grants

  • £100m to help Cornish businesses over the Covid crisis went to holiday let-owners living outside the county  
  • Tensions worsen over affordable housing for locals in the county, with one resident saying:  ‘There’s nobody with a view of the sea that’s local — maybe one’ 
  • Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew George said money should be paid back by those using their Cornish homes as an ‘investment or leisure toy’

A row has broken out in Cornwall after grants worth £100million to help businesses weather the Covid crisis went to second home-owners living outside the county.

The shock figure has ignited tensions between ‘priced out’ locals and wealthy second home proprietors.  

At a meeting of Cornwall Council yesterday (Thursday), it was revealed that almost 62% of a total £170million business support claimed by second home-owners during the pandemic went to landlords living outside the county, The Times reports. 

Locals in Mevagissey voted by 90% to block second homes owners buying property in the village, where the average house price is £300,000

Wealthy out-of-towners are drawn to Cornwall’s stunning scenery, leaving many locals feeling priced out

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay own three properties in Cornwall although he is not thought to rent them out, including a £6million mansion in the seaside village of Rock

Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew George demanded the sums should be paid back by those using their Cornish homes as an ‘investment or leisure toy’.

Councillor George said: ‘It is time the government sought to recover these monies and ensured they are deployed to address the shocking circumstances of local families suffering the housing emergency.’

His calls were backed by Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, who added: ‘A minority did return their money but it’s such a minority it’s not worth commenting about.’

Deputy leader of the council, David Harris, agreed – calling the benefit ‘just wrong and unfair’.

He said he had already complained to the government that the grant should not be dished out automatically to holiday let owners.   

Second home owners who rent out their properties as registered holiday lets can also apply for small business rates relief. 

As a result, they are free from paying business rates or council tax – with estimates that the local authority loses out on a potential £10million a year. 

The meeting heard that 13,255 second homes were recorded on Cornwall Council’s council tax database with 11,081 holiday lets registered for business rates and 8,953 getting business rates relief.   

Data from Cornwall Council shows where the county’s 13,500 second homes were distributed in 2018

Statistics reveal that although Cornwall has just one percent of England’s population, it has 17 per cent of the country’s second homes.

Locals have asked questions about affordability in recent years. House prices in Cornwall are some of the highest in the country, which has angered locals who say they cannot afford homes there. The resort of Megavissey boasts typical property prices of £300,000 – 20 times the average local salary.

A host of famous faces are also homeowners in the county – although they are not believed to rent their properties out: Dame Judi Dench owns a house near St Ives, while celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay owns three properties – including a £6million mansion in the fishing village of Rock.

TV hosts Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan have owned Steward House at Talland Bay, near Polperro, since 1998.   

Rebecca Hemingway, from Fowey Folk Museum, said: ‘There’s nobody with a view of the sea that’s local — maybe one.

‘It’s too late to do anything about the second homes situation now — it would be nice for the community if there were more affordable homes.

‘There’s a handful at the top, but not enough.’

Escape to the country: House prices of £2million properties in rural areas rise by the fastest rate in a decade

House prices of £2million properties in rural areas have risen by the fastest rate in a decade as wealthy people in cities hunt for countryside retreats across the UK.

Homes in the southwest, the Cotswolds and Scotland were the most popular as well as luxury properties in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Norfolk. 

While countryside homes like these have increased in value by an average of £111,000 (5.5 per cent), a similarly priced flat or house in central London went down in value by an average of £8,000 (0.4 per cent) last year.

Savills researchers believe the change in house prices came as the coronavirus lockdown meant people ‘sought a lifestyle shift and recognised the relative value on offer’.

The price shifts were recorded in the Savills prime house price index, which noted last year saw the biggest growth since 2010.

In the rest of the prime London market (defined as the top five per cent of the market), where £2million would typically secure an additional 1,000 square feet of accommodation and more garden space, gains averaged £36,000.

Lucian Cook, Savills head of residential research, said at the time: ‘The unique circumstances of 2020, have led to a surge in market activity at the top end of the housing market.

‘This has supported prices and delivered some unexpected gains, but it hasn’t resulted in runaway price growth.’

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