Westminster Debate on short-term lets. Startling statistics but a lightweight performance from Simon Jupp

Kevin Forster MP (Con) Torbay led a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday on short -term holiday lets and the planning system.

The purpose was to air the problem and consider the Government’s proposal to tweak the planning system as a solution.

A Correspondent has filleted some nuggets of information (so you don’t have to read it all)

First a pithy quote from Luke Pollard MP (Lab) Plymouth:

”The south-west has enough houses; we just do not have enough homes for people to live in.

Now some interesting stats:

In ENGLAND although there is no single source of data on short-term lets “one plausible estimate” is 257,000 properties. (Report commissioned in 2022.by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport )

In DEVON there are 13,363 second homes, an increase of 11% from last year.

In Totnes in south Devon, there are 3,454 Airbnb lets. But houses available for long term rental in Totnes number 34 properties.

In CORNWALL, there are approximately 25,000 second and holiday homes.

Holiday lets have grown by 661% in Cornwall in five years, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

There are 23,500 households on the housing waiting list.

“One of the villages just down the road from where I live is over 70% second homes already “(Luke Pollard )

In NORTH NORFOLK, Wells-next-the-Sea, 40% of all homes are now second homes or holiday lets.

Villages such as Morston, Salthouse, and Blakeney, where every new build house now goes for £1 million, over 50% of the homes are holiday homes or holiday lets.

Some 2,700 families and households are on the North Norfolk District Council housing list

In CUMBRIA there are 8,384 short-term lets of which 75% are Airbnbs.

There are only 232 long-term rental properties available in the whole of the county of Cumbria.

Why has this happened?

Why have our local councils not been given the powers to balance the needs of the economics of tourism with the basic human need of local families to have a safe, affordable place to live?

The minister has the final say:

The Minister Rachel Maclean outlined the details of the proposal to enable local authorities, if they wish, to require planning permissions for change of use to short term and holiday lets.

In passing she boasted that the government delivered 232,000 additional homes—a 10% increase on the previous year. This included “over 632 affordable houses” (Can this be right? Is the Minister, like many of the rest of us, confusing “affordable”, 20% off market rate houses, with old fashioned “council houses”?)

Just to remind you, East Devon has a waiting list of over 4700 individuals and families .

What contribution did Simon Jupp make?

Below is his speech verbatim.

Frankly, this correspondent is unimpressed. 

Simon seems more interested in name checking and political point scoring than adding anything constructive to the argument. Compared to his peers, he comes across as an intellectual lightweight.

[Tim Farron rather than Richard Foord spoke for the LibDems, Speakers are chosen to give political balance. Richard Foord managed one small interjection. So only Jupp got to speak for East Devon]

Simon Jupp:

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) for securing this morning’s debate on short-term holiday lets and the planning system.

I represent a glorious part of the UK. It is understandable that many people want to visit East Devon year after year: we have the Jurassic coast, stunning food, rolling hills, country pubs, quaint bed and breakfasts, and historic attractions. Many jobs in our communities depend on visitors enjoying the variety and availability of accommodation options. Visitors, in turn, spend money locally year after year.

Homeowners benefit from the flexibility offered by short-term lets. For many, it is an important second income at a time of high inflation. However, the soaring numbers of short-term lets and second home ownership make it more difficult for so many local people to own a home of their own. I live in Sidmouth, where a glance at the estate agent’s window reveals the reality: local people are being priced out of the market. It is a similar story in Beer, Branscombe, Budleigh Salterton, Exmouth, Topsham and Seaton. Many local people find it increasingly difficult to get on the property ladder, given the high prices advertised. Homes are often being sold to cash buyers from elsewhere within days of being advertised.

I hope the key message of today’s debate will be that we need to get the balance right. Homes to buy and for long-term rent are out of reach for many people who grew up in Devon, like me, or who work locally or need the support of family to look after a loved one. Our country and our county need strong communities all year round, not places that are ghost towns half the year. What have the Government done, what will the Government do and where could the Government go further?

The Government have been listening to the concerns of colleagues, particularly those who represent tourist hotspots in Devon, Cornwall, Norfolk, the Lake district and Yorkshire. There have been welcome measures. The Government have already introduced higher rates of stamp duty for additional properties. They have closed business rate loopholes. They plan to let local authorities double council tax on second homes, as has been mentioned. That is a great start, but more action is needed, specifically on short-term lets. That is why I welcome the introduction of a registration scheme through an amendment to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which will bring short-term lets up to a higher standard and provide much-needed data on activity in local areas.

This debate is timely, because the consultation on how the registration scheme will be administered is still open; it closes in roughly a fortnight. There are also plans to restrict the ways in which homes can be flipped into short-term lets by bringing in new permitted development rights for a change in use from a C3 dwelling house to a C5 short-term let. Councils would then have the option to limit the use of those permitted development rights, such as in certain geographical areas with the highest number of short-term lets. Let me tell you: East Devon is definitely one of those.

The consultation is running in parallel to the one on registration schemes, which also closes soon. It is right to give local councils all the tools they need. Those powers should not be mandated by Whitehall officials. Decisions will be made by local people elected at the ballot box. I hope that East Devon District Council will use the tools given to it by this Conservative Government.

Finally, there are areas in which the Government can go further. As I have mentioned before in Parliament, one policy could be to allow councils to reserve a percentage of new builds for people with a local family or economic connection to an area. For example, the purchaser or tenant could have to meet one of the following conditions: that they currently live or work within 25 miles of the property, that they were born within 25 miles of the property, or that they can demonstrate a care network within 25 miles of the property. A covenant would permanently protect a percentage of any new housing stock from short-term let or second home ownership. We undoubtedly need to build new homes in East Devon, but we should aim to look after locals first. The Government can be creative and proactive in looking at all possible options. Only then will there be a better balance.

Obviously there are two sides to this debate, and I do acknowledge that short-term holiday lets bring visitors to the places we love. Visitors contribute a great deal to our communities in East Devon, but their stay is often enjoyable only because of local workers behind the bar of a pub, in the kitchen of a restaurant or tapping on the till of a local high street shop. Those workers need somewhere to live, too. Our economy in East Devon would grind to a halt without them. We need a much better balance for our communities in East Devon for local people, now and for generations to come.

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