St Ives referendum – Is this the way forward to stop seaside idylls being ghost towns?

The idyllic, but seagull-dive-bombed, seaside town of St Ives is holding a referendum, as the BBC reports:

On 5 May, the council will ask residents to vote on a new town plan, which includes a promise to restrict second home ownership.
If the vote is passed, new housing projects will get planning permission only on condition that the homes are reserved for people to live in full-time. Developers will not be allowed to sell the buildings to anyone who has a residence elsewhere.


This has been stimulated by a genuine problem:

Wages are low, many people working seasonal jobs in the tourism industry. Yet housing costs are high, inflated by the huge demand by people who have chosen the county for their second home, to visit or as an investment.

My own view is that there is some merit in the proposal. It’s not just Cornwall where this is a problem. Last April I went to help Nick Harvey canvass in Lynmouth, Devon. In most streets, there were just one or two houses with permanent residents. Lynmouth is basically a ghost town in the off-season. All the locals have disappeared up the hill to Lynton. I could say the same about other seaside towns I know of, such as Fowey in Cornwall. If you want to find the local community, go up the hill to the top. The town down the bottom is like a sort of empty shell, showroom in the winter.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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7 Comments

  • Long overdue move by St Ives and will hopefully be copied in many other areas including London where the ‘buy to leave’ foreign investors leave housing empty for years in a city with a chronic housing shortage.

  • Matt (Bristol) 13th Apr '16 - 2:10pm

    Having lived in the lake district, I can readily appreciate the forces driving this, but am unsure how legal this is, particularly in the case of renters?

    To what extent could such a proposal be used by an anti-immigrant party, for eg?

  • Neil Sandison 13th Apr '16 - 3:03pm

    Noted this was only on new build homes which is unlikely to affect tourism or rented housing market .Gobsmacked by housing ministers Brandon Thomas response .Who stated this would be an unwarranted intrusion by the state into the private sector .Note he is only too happy to intrude upon the income on council housing tenants under pay to stay serious double standards by someone who wants to hold the job title of housing minister.

  • Trevor Morton 14th Apr '16 - 8:14am

    Put a stop to the creation of sterile, ghost towns/villages and stop the tax dodgers.
    The current upturn on the UK’s economy is enabling ‘them’s that can’ in the South East to buy-up property in the South West further exacerbating the ghost-town effect. What’s been done to Salcombe is now happening in Lyme Regis and further east into Dorset. See what the de-urbanisation has done to large areas of France!
    And its time to clip the wings of the many second-home ‘accommodation agencies’ that are blatantly evading paying the taxes due on their cosy enterprise. Offer to pay an owner in cash and hey presto, the price comes down. Its even better out-of-season when an all cash rental (that clearly will not sully the owners bank account to be traceable in the event of the Revenue calling) and the price goes right down. Who’s bothered when your property folio is growing 5% year-on-year.
    I can’t see a Tory-friendly government spoiling the fun of its followers that are holiday home landlords.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Apr '16 - 4:35pm

    As someone who has suffered a lot financially over the years and does not have one , let alone two properties to own, nonetheless , I do not like this idea , as there is nothing wrong with the aspiration or actual buying of a holiday home in a favourite area.Motive is everything .On the one hand we look unfavourably on those who buy to let , making a profit as part time private landlords , then we or those that do , not me , condemn those who buy to visit regularly , their own second home , on which thy are not motivated by profit at all , but fondness for an area!

    If I was a rich man , as the song says , I can think of no more pleasant personal way to enjoy my wealth, than buying a nice little house for a regular holiday within Britain.If unwelcome , those who can do so , I guess would have to do so in Monacco or some other area lacking character or community that at least welcomes people!

    This party is a coalition of left and centre .This policy is left Labour. President Clinton and other moderate progressives accomplished far more with positive policies.Tax incentives and such .

    How about local council tax reductions for those living all year round , rather than doubling the council tax on visitor home owners to be at the same rate ? Or similar council tax reductions for buy to let all year round , if at the lower end of the band ? Or a genuinely imaginative local policy campaign to create jobs and keep and attract local residents ? And of course greater investment for local areas by central government.

    As someone in the arts ,I am ever incredulous at the lack of imagination and yet the cant and humbug of local councils and central government re creative industry funding and support and in bad economic times too , creative industry makes money , and contributes to quality of life .

    Blackpool and Labour could have thought of it years ago instead of Super casinos !And St. Ives is a mecca for artists .Why not invest in them , to stay , or re locate to there .Or would we who are not from Cornwall be welcome !

    The entire region is not typical of much of Britain .It has a tiny immigrant or ethnically diverse British population , something in the three per cent amount. It is right to be concerned it does not become ghost town dominated .There are far more open minded and open hearted ways to do it !

  • Neil Sandison 16th Apr '16 - 4:49pm

    Nothing wrong from an intellectual perspective for St Ives putting forward this proposal as a neighbourhood plan .It will have to fit in with the district councils local development plan and I can see developers objecting when it goes to the inspector .What is wrong is Brandon Lewis interfering in a local democratic decision .The conservatives appear to have a default centralist position on housing if it does not fit their ideological mind set on housing. They have clearly kicked localism into the long grass.

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