It is not surprising that Cornwall is so popular with holiday homeowners – but the feeling’s not always mutual
There is much for the visitor to enjoy: turquoise water, sandy beaches, good surf not too far away, a fine golf course, cafes, restaurants, boutiques – and a bakery that serves excellent pasties.
It is not surprising that the village of Rock (so-called because of the old quarry that now serves as a car park) is so popular with second homeowners.
Stroll around the village – a ferry ride away from the foodie mecca of Padstow – and you could be forgiven for thinking that Britain is booming rather than gripped by recession.
The shops are busy, the Blue Tomato cafe is full and builders are busying away on the few scraps of undeveloped land.
A glimpse at the website of estate agent John Bray reveals only three properties advertised for less than £250,000, the most reasonable a two-bedroomed flat in the nearby fishing village of Port Isaac (where the Martin Clunes comedy-drama Doc Martin is filmed) up for sale for £169,500.
In contrast, there are 11 properties on the website priced at more than £1m.
Bray also manages no fewer than 276 holiday cottages in and around Rock and Port Isaac. Even in mid November Quay Cottage on the front at Rock costs £500-a-week to rent. Good for those with money to invest or spend on nice holidays, not so good for local people.
With average wages in Cornwall only just scraping above £20,000, it is very difficult for people born here to stay.
Young people wanting to get a foot on the property ladder have to move inland or even out of Cornwall.
Cornwall council, led by a coalition of Conservatives and Independents, is trying to address the problem. Last year it called on the government to bring in new legislation to remove the council tax discount on second homes.
It says there are around 13,500 properties registered as second homes in Cornwall, and cancelling the discount would provide an additional £1.6m, which could be used to provide homes for local people.
One of the key policies of Mebyon Kernow, the political party campaigning for self-government for Cornwall, is to introduce planning restrictions to “stop and then reverse the spread of second ‘homes'” – the inverted commas around homes are significant. The argument is that most of these bolt-holes are not “homes” at all.
In Rock there is a scheme to try to provide homes for local people – a shiny new collection of houses on Dingle’s Way. Here a community land trust was formed and with the help of an interest-free council loan a group of people, all with strong local connections, self-built their bungalows for £80,000 each, a fraction of what such a building would cost on the open market. But such success stories are rare.
The argument against second home owners was passionately summed up by Western Morning News reporter Simon Parker in response to a piece AN Wilson wrote in the Daily Mail this summer about giving up his second home in Port Isaac.
Wilson wrote that he “used to agonise about being one of those who had wrecked the character and economy of the old place” but came to the conclusion that the money tourists brought in was crucial to the far south-west of Britain. Parker was unimpressed: “By purchasing a property in a village, holidaying there a couple of times a year, and thereby transforming that village into a playground of the rich, these leeches suck the heart out of communities.”
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