Councils in popular English holiday areas are preparing to follow the lead of St Ives following a referendum in which the Cornish town's residents backed overwhelmingly a crackdown on second-home buyers, who are accused of driving up property values and pricing out locals.
The St Ives referendum on 5 May saw 83.2% of voters who turned out backing a proposal that new private developments for the market would only secure planning permission if the properties to be built are for people to live in full-time as permanent residents, rather than holiday homes. Existing housing would still be available for second-home-buyers under the plan, which is still to face a legal challenge.
It formed part of the town's broader neighbourhood plan to tackle house prices, which are rising much faster than local wages, squeezing residents out of the area. Now other popular holiday areas are thought to be considering similar action, having long wrestled with the second-homes issue, including in the picturesque Lake District.
Mary Wilson, who chairs South Lakeland council's planning committee and sits on the Lower Allithwaite Parish Council, told IBTimes UK the neighbourhood plan for the local village of Cartmel is in development and restrictions on second home ownership is "one thing we are looking at".
She said over a third of the properties in Cartmel, represented by her parish council and the ward for which she is a councillor, are second homes or holiday lets. Many stand vacant for large portions of the year, hitting the local economy. The intense demand also makes it harder for young locals to step onto the property ladder and buy their first home.
The parish council had already discussed with a developer interested in building on council-owned land a short-term ban on second-home-owners from buying the newly built property for up to a year, to give locals an advantage, before opening it out to the whole market.
"Why should we be building more new homes in beautiful areas for people to buy as a second home?" she said. "We've got a huge housing stock out there. A lot of it is what I would call not very suitable for permanent residents in that maybe it's a little old, maybe doesn't have the full benefits of house insulation, and it is expensive to live in. Maybe those are quite suitable as holiday lets and second homes."
She added: "The problem is the ones that do get snapped up for second homes are the one- and two-bedroom apartments and those are what we desperately need... The thought of building a new housing estate of 20 houses or something in St Ives and watching a third of them being snapped up for second homes is absolutely awful."
A report in The Times said the government was preparing to dismiss the St Ives referendum if legal action against its result by a firm of architects from Penzance, Cornwall, fails. "We will be watching St Ives with interest," said Michael Kiff, mayor of Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast, to The Times. Kiff is waiting to see whether the St Ives second homes crackdown is allowed to go ahead by government ministers before his own area takes similar action.
Wilson of South Lakeland Council told IBTimes UK it would be "very strange" for the government to stop St Ives from imposing its second home restrictions, particularly because it has promoted a localism agenda. "I hope the government doesn't try," she said.