Owl had been slightly worried that some of Dominic Raab’s laissez-faire attitude may have rubbed off onto his one-time SPAD.
Simon Jupp MP writes in this week’s Exmouth Journal:
If you glance out of your window or take a short stroll, you’ll be reminded that we live in a very special corner of the country. East Devon is a beautiful place with picturesque villages and towns nestled around breath-taking countryside and coastline.
Now we’ve emerged from restrictions, our beaches and high streets bustle with residents and visitors. We need both to keep the shop doors open across East Devon and I’m proud to represent a place people want to visit.
Many visitors will no doubt wander past the many estate agent windows to peruse the property market. They may romanticise about the idyllic lifestyle they could have if they upped sticks from somewhere up the line and made East Devon their home. Some may even be able to afford that dream.
Meanwhile, some local people may look at the estate agents’ windows and experience a sinking feeling. The average salary in East Devon is £28,800 and the average price of a property is around £327,000.
Many people who’ve lived here for generations are being pushed further away by property prices they simply cannot afford. We also risk our communities becoming unsustainable because those who work in town can’t afford to live there, resulting in a recruitment crisis as we’ve seen in places including Salcombe and St Ives. The solution is not simply to build more houses everywhere, although affordable and social housing prioritised for people with local connections is undoubtedly needed locally. We must also look at the rise of second home ownership and the increasing numbers of holiday cottages. Whilst some holiday cottages are being run as legitimate businesses which provide accommodation for visitors which spend money in our local economy, others are being run as a tax dodge.
After a hard-fought campaign by MPs in the South West, the Chancellor has committed to closing a loophole that lets second homes avoid paying council tax by registering as a holiday rental, signing up for business rates and then receiving business rates relief. I hope we’ll get a date in the diary for this change sooner rather than later. Separately, a countrywide survey assessing the impact of Airbnb-style rentals on the housing market would surely provide a sobering wake-up call in Westminster and Whitehall.
We must also take action to protect newbuilds from being lost to the local market. We could follow the example recently set in Salcombe by setting a specific rule in any new Section 106 legal agreement to ensure new properties remain a principal residence in perpetuity. South Hams District Council recently agreed to pursue this policy and it is now with an independent examiner. I will be watching the outcome of the examiner’s conclusions carefully and I hope our local councillors will too. I’d argue that we need this intervention in some of our towns and villages and the Secretary of State is aware of my views. We should also consider the way we build homes. Mid Devon District Council is showing the way with a modular home development in Cullompton. I’ve had a tour of similar types of housing and I’d very happily live in one. They are considerably cheaper to construct and a firm reminder that our local housing crisis shouldn’t become a license to print money for developers. Over 300 properties are currently advertised on Airbnb in East Devon. Meanwhile, just 25 properties are available for longterm rent in the constituency, some asking for eye-watering monthly rents.
Homes for long-term rent and buy are out of reach for many people who grew up here, work locally or need the support of family to look after children or care for a loved one. Local politicians at every level owe it to everyone in East Devon to consider more than their own backyard.