Chocolate box Cornwall helps sweeten the divide
If you thought a cocktail of austerity and higher stamp duty would kill off holiday home sales, think again – especially if you are in Cornwall. Analysis compiled for The Daily Telegraph by estate agency Hamptons International shows that in 2010, seven per cent of properties bought in Cornwall were second homes. By 2017, despite a three per cent stamp duty surcharge introduced in 2016 and steep council tax increases on second homes in parts of the county, that figure was up to nine per cent.
There’s no sign of it stopping, with one of the West Country’s leading agents, Jo Ashby of John Bray & Co, reporting a serious rise in interest from buyers spending £1million or more so far this year at Cornish honeypots such as Rock, Port Isaac, Polzeath and Daymer Bay.
Ashby recalls that the April 2016 stamp duty hike proved a deterrent – but only for a few months.
“A lot of buyers rushed to beat the deadline… Now the three per cent is just a fact of life. People know it’s not going to change so they’re getting on and buying again,” she says. You can say that again. Those Hamptons International figures show that in 2016 and 2017 no fewer than 67 per cent of properties bought in the PL28 postcode, centred on north Cornwall favourites Padstow, St Merryn and Trevone, were second homes. The Rame peninsula near the border with Devon is next with 29 per cent, with St Ives on 24 per cent. Such high proportions have led, inevitably, to a backlash. Most critics are not urging a wholesale ban on second homes, just correcting what many see as the imbalance existing in some areas. The high-profile St Ives referendum in 2016, banning the sale of future new-build houses and flats to second homers, has been replicated in St Minver (including Rock) and the Rame peninsula; plans are afoot to vote soon on the issue in Mevagissey on the south coast, too. However, these bans are restricted only to brand new homes, and do not preclude second homers from buying an old house, knocking it down and building a new one on the same plot – precisely what chef Gordon Ramsay is doing in Rock. Such bans have received a mixed reception from the property industry. “The effect has been to push up the prices of older properties,” says Gareth Sainsbury, a West Country buying agent. This in a county that is the second-most deprived area in northern Europe, according to the most recent Index of Multiple Deprivation.
As a result, a feeling of “secondhome guilt” has broken out among some. The Cornwall Community Foundation (CCF), a charity set up in 2003 to improve education and alleviate poverty in the county, has sought to channel this into something more productive, encouraging buyers to make a donation towards community projects. In 2016 broadcaster and hotelier Alex Polizzi, herself a second homeowner in Cornwall, started the initiative with a £5,000 donation.
David Mills, a retired businessman, lives in St Margarets, south-west London, but has had a home in north Cornwall for more than 20 years. “It’s a classic case of giving something back,” he says. “We appreciate that we’re privileged to have a holiday home at all, especially in this part of the country, but not everyone in that community is so fortunate. We know many other second homeowners who also support the CCF.”
The charity provides funds for causes ranging from contributing to the running costs of a support centre for the homeless in St Austell, to helping a community procession in Lostwithiel each New Year’s Day. It fundraises through traditional means such as donations, but also through social responsibility activities including the Cornwall 100 Club, which secures donations from businesses based in the county.
CCF development director Jeremy Ward suggests second homeowners donate a week’s rental income from their property. The tactic works, he says, with many agreeing, often giving “much more” than one week’s rent. “We don’t take a view for or against second homes. We just want more balance between the two Cornwalls – the chocolate box one that’s well known, and the other where locals struggle with poverty and isolation,” he says.
The John Bray agency, which backs the CCF, says second homeowners have a vested interest in seeing communities thrive. “By letting out their homes they encourage visitors who spend locally. No one wants a ghost village without facilities,” says Ashby. Source: Hamptons International
St Ives, left; a house in St Mawes, right, £1.95m with Knight Frank