The High Court has upheld a Cornish neighbourhood plan, opening the door for a nationwide crackdown on second homes.
The St Ives Neighbourhood Plan will allow planners to restrict the occupation of any new housing as a principal residence only, whether located within an allocated, windfall or exception site. In other words, the planning authority will be able to stop new houses being used as second homes or holiday accommodation.
What is neighbourhood planning?
Neighbourhood planning allows local people to have a say in the planning policies affecting their local area. Whilst initially viewed by some as NIMBY charters, these plans have enabled local people to shape the future direction of the towns and villages in which they live.
Neighbourhood plans continue to challenge the planning system, gather momentum and legal standing. The St Ives Neighbourhood Plan was challenged on the basis that alternative options to the restriction had not been properly considered, as required by the relevant EU directive, and that the restrictive policy was not compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. The High Court dismissed this challenge late last year.
How will the new planning policy work in St Ives?
The aim of the new policy is to stem the tide of second home owners within the area. Whilst undoubtedly bringing significant trade and footfall to the area on a sunny August bank holiday, second home owners are also accused of failing to support the local services, community and economy on, for instance, a wet and cold Wednesday in mid-January.
The St Ives Neighbourhood Plan requires sufficient restrictions to be imposed to secure the policy and enforce non-compliance. In our view, only a planning obligation would provide the flexibility to deal with complex issues arising from having to cater for the range of ways in which people own, rent and live in property today. With badly drafted provisions, a council could be put in the difficult position of having to ask the courts to require someone to live in a property in the event of non-compliance.
Could it work elsewhere?
The High Court decision could potentially lead to the adoption of similar policies in second home hotspots, such as coastal areas and national parks across the country, in both neighbourhood and district wide plans. This could effectively create a two-tier housing system within these areas of holiday home stress.
It is quite possible that we may see even similar polices making an appearance in London boroughs, especially those concerned about "dark streets". Quite a dramatic result for a seaside town of 11,000 people.