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Radical new housing policy could help South Hams

September 19, 2018 4:45 PM

Caroline Voaden and Andrew George at Lib Dem Autumn Conference 2018New planning permission rules to use a house as a second home could make a radical change to South Hams towns that are being hollowed out by wealthy second home owners, said Totnes Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate Caroline Voaden.

Supporting an amendment put forward to the Lib Dem autumn conference in Brighton by former St Ives MP Andrew George, Caroline said:

"This is not about punishing the rich or trying to expel them. This is a fair policy designed to ensure that those who are privileged enough to afford two, or even more homes, contribute financially to the communities they are jeopardising."

Two in five houses in Salcombe are now second homes and Voaden spoke of the dark steeets in winter where nearly all the lights have gone off. Many second home owners pay no council tax or business rates because of tax loopholes.

"Key workers and those in low paid jobs must be able to live in their own communities. Whole towns cannot survive on changing the bed linen of the wealthy.

"Our public services are under so much strain due to continual government cuts that there is no excuse for wealthy second home owners to be able to avoid contributing through tax loopholes while hundreds of local people literally have no chance of ever being able to afford one home, let alone two."

"By requiring second home owners to apply for planning permission, communities will have more say over how to manage their housing stock. It will also enable local authorities to collect tax on these properties and - hopefully - invest some of the money in maintaining and increasing social and affordable housing stock," said Voaden.

New policy passed at conference also calls for 50,000 social homes a year to be built immediately, rising to 100,000 social homes as soon as possible. The party also approved better environmental standards for housing to reduce fuel poverty and greenhouse gas emissions, more security for tenants in the private rented sector through increasing landlord's notice periods from two to six months, and an expansion of the 'rent to buy' scheme.

George's amendment, which was passed by conference, would introduce a new planning use class for 'non-permanent occupancy', to enable local communities to determine how many/what proportion of homes may be second/holiday homes and to provide a stronger statutory definition on which to apply appropriate tax, entitlement, voter registration and other policy to ensue a fair and balanced management of the available local housing resource.