Cornwall rages as outsiders cash in on second homes

Second-home owners in Cornwall accessed funds to the tune of £170 million intended to help businesses weather the Covid crisis — and almost 62 per cent of the cash went to people who live outside the county.

Plus the Council and local community miss out on council tax and business rates.

Also don’t forget the lack of accommodation for long-term rent and the whole question of affordability. – Owl

Will Humphries, Southwest Correspondent www.thetimes.co.uk

Tensions between Cornish locals and wealthy out-of-towners who own second homes in the county have been steadily rising — and the influx of tourists this summer has not helped relations.

The row has intensified after it emerged yesterday that second-home owners in Cornwall accessed funds to the tune of £170 million intended to help businesses weather the Covid crisis — and almost 62 per cent of the cash went to people who live outside the county.

Second-home ownership has resulted in many locals being priced out of the area and at a council meeting yesterday Andrew George, a Liberal Democrat councillor, demanded that £100 million of Covid grants that went to those living outside the county should be paid back.

He said the money should be returned by those who use their second homes in Cornwall as an “investment or leisure toy” and instead be used to tackle the “housing emergency” in Cornwall.

“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,” he added.

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said he was “not happy with it … a minority did return their money but it’s such a minority it’s not worth commenting about.”

To further ruffle feathers, second-home owners who put their properties up for rent as registered holiday lets can separately apply for small business rates relief and as a result do not end up paying business rates or council tax.

David Harris, deputy leader of Cornwall council, said yesterday that this benefit was “just wrong and unfair”.

During the meeting it was revealed that there are 13,255 second homes recorded on its council tax database with 11,081 holiday lets registered for business rates and 8,953 getting business rates relief.

It was also revealed that 61.8 per cent of the holiday lets in Cornwall that claim small business rates relief and received Covid grants were registered to people living outside Cornwall.

Harris told the meeting he had made “very strong representations” to the government that the Covid grants should not “just be paid out automatically to these holiday let businesses”.

But, he added: “Unfortunately civil servants in London didn’t agree with me and I got nowhere.”

It has previously been claimed that Cornwall misses out on as much as £10 million a year as a result of holiday homes not paying council tax or business rates.

The government announced this year that it would close a loophole that enables second-home and holiday let owners to avoid paying council tax and business rates.

The growth in popularity of homes in Cornwall shows no signs of abating. Among the celebrities to own property are Dame Judi Dench, who owns a house near St Ives.

The seaside town of Fowey this month voted to ban people buying new-build homes as second properties.

Jo Ashby, a director at estate agent John Bray and Partners, said at the time there has been an “explosion” in interest in the past 18 months.

Rebecca Hemingway, from Fowey Folk Museum, added: “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.”

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