Second homes/Holiday homes: Cornwall’s only solution is real devolution with primary legislation

‘We are doing everything in our power’ is the response from Cornwall Council when faced with issues it cannot resolve.  In reality, the council has no legislative powers to take the decisions best suited to Cornwall’s needs.

In 2015 former MP, Andrew George, criticised the Government’s so-called devolution deal as ‘passing the buck’ rather than granting meaningful powers. ‘The Government claiming to devolve powers is as  plausible as King Herod promising to build a children’s hospital’.  Indeed, the deal was so weak it required no legislation to be passed through parliament.  

The failure to devolve housing and planning ensured Cornwall remained powerless to address the developer-led strategy that allows more housing, arguing that more houses and more people would stimulate the Cornish economy.  

The evidence to the contrary is obvious, and Cornwall Council is culpable. 

Bernard Deacon explains in his The land’s end? The Great Sale of Cornwall, published by the Cornish Social and Economic Research Group in 2013:

“Oddly, in all the 366 pages of the Core Strategy documentation the critical role of in-migration was mentioned just twice.  In Local Plan Strategic Polices its not mentioned at all as such, although the planners do admit that ‘migration rates’ are ‘a major component in housing need. 

Occasionally at other times too the veil slips. Council itself in its own ‘evidence base’ admits that natural change in Cornwall without factoring in-migration would lead to a lower population growth. And at other unguarded moments the planners are forced to admit the truth: The housing projections . . . are primarily driven by migration’.  

The Council also knows full well that in-migration is the single greatest driver of population change as it states bluntly in its internal documents. Actually, even this understates things.  In fact in-migration provides all of the increase in expected population according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  Instead, they deliberately blurred the issue of exactly what proportion of the proposed new housing was ‘needed’ for in-migrants and how much for the existing population’.

Cornwall’s Housing Crisis: Second Homes/Holiday lets

Image credit: Transceltic

Cornwall’s housing crisis prompted the recent protests demanding an extra council tax on second homes.  However, while their actions are commendable (and as previous demonstrations have proven) they have little or no effect in changing policy.  This was made clear when a Government minister stated there were no plans to allow Cornwall Council to charge an extra tax on second homes.

Councillor Olly Monk (in charge of Cornwall’s housing and planning) said councillors are doing “everything in their power” to tackle the “lack of decent affordable housing that residents are experiencing all over Cornwall.”  

Again, the Council’s mantra ‘we are doing everything in our power’ – which excludes any legislative power to control second home ownership and the continuing rise of in-migration.

A National Assembly of Cornwall
Cornwall councillors talk of devolution in terms of localised devolution.  There has also been suggestions of Metro Mayor or ‘County deals’ – the so-called ‘vision’ of Boris Johnson – all of which allows the continued interference from Westminster. 

The only solution for Cornwall is real devolution; the decentralisation of power from the halls of Government to the streets and communities of Cornwall.  Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, actively campaigns for a Cornish Assembly and the production of Cornwall’s own ‘National Planning Policy Framework‘.  Although not a campaign for full Independence, a National Assembly of Cornwall would have the capability to create primary legislation.  

MK’s policy document may be read here: Towards A National Assembly of Cornwall 

The document also has an introduction that includes:

1)  Mebyon Kernow believes that the historic nation of Cornwall, with its own distinct identity, language and heritage, has the same right to self-determination as other nations such as Wales and Scotland.

2)  We believe that the people of Cornwall should have more say in how their lives are run and that locally elected politicians should be taking the key decisions about Cornwall’s future – not unelected bureaucrats or disinterested ministers in London.  

Until Cornwall supports a Cornish Assembly, with primary legislation similar to that of  Wales (the Welsh Parliament has given local councils the power to charge 150% on the council tax of second home owners) there can be no control over second homes and rising in-migration that pushes up house prices beyond the reach of  Cornish people who are made homeless.

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