Next week sees a court case which will decide whether there will have to be a re-run of the ‘second homes referendum’ banning the sale of new-builds to existing property owners.
A referendum in St Ives in Cornwall back in May gave substantial backing to the proposal that new-build homes should not be sold as holiday properties, but a local developer has challenged the processes used by Cornwall Council, which conducted the vote on behalf of St Ives.
Officially the vote was about a 108-page neighbourhood plan but in reality it was all about one specific and highly-publicised proposal: a ban on new-build apartments and houses being sold to holiday home purchasers.
There was an 83 per cent vote for, on a turnout of 47 per cent, but now the October 6 court case will decide whether the result is to be quashed by a judicial review after complaints by developer RLT Built Environment that there were irregularities.
Although the ban applies only to new-builds, the move has had a wider dampening effect on the market according to some local agents quoted in the national media. "It's had a wider effect as the perception and the media portrayal has given the impression that the town doesn't want second home or holiday home owners" according to Suzanne Jenkins of local agency Millerson, quoted in the Daily Telegraph.
In the summer her agency made headlines by admitting that sales in St Ives had "noticeably dropped" in recent months, while rising in nearby areas.
The decision on whether than ban stands will be scrutinised by many other councils and pressure groups - not just in the westcountry - alleging similar affordability issues.
Councillors in two other Cornish ports, Mevagissey and Fowey, have spoken admiringly of what St Ives has attempted to do, while the Cornwall Community Foundation - a charity that extends grants to local groups from scouts to recycling enthusiasts - is asking second home owners to donate the equivalent of a week’s rental income from their property.
In Hastings the Labour council is considering doubling council tax for holiday home owners - a St Ives-style ban would not work there, the authority says, because most of the second homes are period cottages - while at Anglesey and Pembrokeshire in Wales there have already voted in council tax hikes of between 25 and 50 per cent for second homers.