The Devon village where 80% of properties are second homes
Will Humphries, Southwest Correspondent www.thetimes.co.uk
In the picturesque seaside village of Hope Cove, second home ownership is running at an alarming 80 per cent.
The ageing residents who remain in the south Devon parish, close to Salcombe, fear the march of the holiday home is increasing after their objections to two hotels being converted into holiday homes and apartments have been dismissed by the local council.
“Out of 400 homes only about 80 have permanent residents and the rest are second homes,” said Tom Windle, a retired oil exploration geologist from London who moved to the parish in 2009.
In winter the dark streets are often only punctuated by lights in the windows of every third or fourth house in a row.
Windle, who at 70 describes himself as “one of the younger ones”, said: “There has been no attempt to bring in young families or anything that is affordable. It has always been a question of ‘let’s knock down and build holiday homes’.”
South Hams district council has granted planning permission in recent years for the demolition or conversion of two local hotels in favour of holiday apartments and residential flats which locals believe will quickly become yet more second homes.
The parish council opposed both projects.
Lantern Lodge Hotel, which had 14 guest bedrooms, is being demolished to make way for nine holiday apartments, five residential homes and a staff residence in a £3.3 million redevelopment project.
In 2016, the council refused planning permission for the demolition of the hotel and construction of five homes because it would cause the “loss of a valued tourist facility in a prime location” and didn’t “provide affordable housing provision in an area with an exceptional and demonstrable local need”.
Trinity Square Developments said the approved holiday apartment, with uninterrupted views over the English Channel, would be aimed at the UK’s growing “staycation” market.
Further up the hill from the Lantern Lodge is the ten-bedroom Sand Pebbles Hotel, which was sold earlier this year with planning permission for conversion into five holiday cottages, plus owners’ accommodation.
Paul Green, 79, a parish councillor and former aircraft technician who retired to the parish from Coventry 16 years ago, said the present owners of the Sand Pebbles “wanted to do something different than is in the plans”.
“They called a meeting of the parish council and asked us what we wanted to see there and we said we wanted it back as a hotel again because we are losing so many in the area,” Green said.
“The two hotels we have left in Hope Cove are fully booked and so they are clearly viable businesses. It appears, as far as money making goes, that developers think it’s easier to make money from holiday flats than from hotels.”
Green said second homes were vital for the local economy, with those who spend about six months a year in the village helping to raise funds for the local lifeboat station from their permanent homes in places like Bournemouth.
But he said the sheer number of second homes had left too few residents to run village organisations and associations.
“Locals don’t think the hotels should be converted unless they can be proven to be operating at a loss and they haven’t done that,” Green said.
The South Huish neighbourhood plan, passed in May this year, states that a hotel or tourism-related site should only be deemed no longer viable and granted permission for a change of use if it can be determined through an independent assessment that the vacant unit has been actively marketed and offered at a reasonable sale price for at least two years.
The Sand Pebbles Hotel said in its planning application that there had been a steady fall in turnover from £208,000 in 2015 to £150,000 in 2019.
“It is clear that the demand for the hotel has been falling over several years,” its agent said in a report.
The South Hams planning officer agreed, adding in his final report: “It is also relevant that trends in this sector are changing, with a shift towards family accommodation that cannot be met through single hotel rooms which often do not cater for families of four and more.”
Green said he believes it is now “too late” for government legislation to save villages such as Hope Cove from being swallowed by second homes and holiday apartments.