‘Doubling council tax isn’t enough’: Fed-up locals say Boris’s second home clampdown is ’empty face-saving spin’ and demand planning restrictions to ward off out-of-towners who leave properties empty

  • Local authorities to get powers to hike charges when homes not used or let out for at least 70 days per year
  • Vacant property has become a festering issue in prime beauty spots, with locals frustrated at soaring prices
  • Tories fear that such resentment helped the Lib Dems make significant election gains in so-called ‘Blue Wall’ 

Plans to double council tax on second home owners who do not use them enough have been labelled as ’empty face-saving spin’ by local councillors, while residents said they were ‘unfair’ and would be ‘impossible to enforce.’ 

Local authorities are expected to be handed discretionary powers to hike charges when properties are not either regularly used or let out by their owners for at least 70 days per year.

Vacant property has become a festering issue in prime beauty spots, with locals frustrated at soaring prices preventing permanent residents getting on the housing ladder.

Tories fear that such resentment is part of a toxic mix that helped the Lib Dems make significant council elections gains in the so-called ‘Blue Wall’. 

But Derek Thomas MP for St Ives, one of the affected holiday hotspots, said the proposals do not go ‘far enough’, adding: ‘We need planning restrictions to protect new homes for permanent residence and manage the flow of existing properties from long-lets to holiday lets.’ 

Meanwhile a furious Andrew George, Lib Dem councillor and Chief Executive of affordable housing charity Cornwall Community Land Trust, said the double council tax plans were ’empty face-saving spin’, which will ‘neither hasten nor discourage the present industrial-level exploitation of the massive rewards and tax advantages available to property investors to the detriment of the communities they exploit and the locals they push out.’ 

Local authorities are expected to be handed discretionary powers to hike charges when properties are not either regularly used or let out by their owners for at least 70 days per year. (Pictured: St Ives, Cornwall)

Derek Thomas (pictured), MP for St Ives, one of the affected beauty spots, said the proposals on doubling council tax do not go ‘far enough’

Andrew George (pictured), Lib Dem councillor and Chief Executive of affordable housing charity Cornwall Community Land Trust, said the double council tax plans were ’empty face-saving spin’, which will ‘neither hasten nor discourage the present industrial-level exploitation of the massive rewards and tax advantages available to property investors to the detriment of the communities they exploit and the locals they push out.’

He added: ‘Regulations to double council tax on empty properties already exist and will be devilishly difficult to apply to second homes on top of the provisions targeted at empty properties. 

‘There’s nothing behind the spin. Just words which they hope will help detoxify the Tory brand.’ 

In the affluent Canford Cliffs suburb of Poole, Dorset, an area popular with second home owners, some locals were supportive of the measures. 

Maz Hussain, 33, a biomedical scientist at Poole Hospital, said he and his wife, yoga teacher Lily, 26, wanted to own their own home but couldn’t afford it.

He said: ‘It’s not fair that we have been looking since 2019 to buy our own home.

‘Prices have gone up exponentially and for my generation home ownership seems impossible.

‘Then you have got to factor in the cost of living as well. If this new measure forces people to sell their second homes it’s a good thing.

‘They should at least be expected to rent them out if they are not using them so local people can live in a nice area.’

However, property developer Myles Bridges, 57, said the doubling of council tax for absentee second home owners would be ‘very unfair’ and detrimental to his profession.

He said: ‘That is very unfair. There’s a lot of second home owners around here that have invested a lot into the area who would be affected, and this would be poor for the area.

‘This would force a number of properties on to the market which would not help property developers like myself.

‘It would have a negative impact on the residential market.’

Meanwhile Luke Hughes, 36, a health and safety inspector who rents a flat, said a lack of affordable housing is a bigger issue than second homes.

He said: ‘The holiday homes here are out of most people’s price range, and as long as they use them they bring a big boost to the local economy which is needed after the pandemic.

‘I think the bigger issue is a lack of affordable housing for people who want to get on the property ladder.

‘Something needs to be done because not enough affordable housing is being provided to working class people.’

Vacant property has become a festering issue in prime beauty spots, with locals frustrated at soaring prices preventing permanent residents getting on the housing ladder. File picture of Looe in Cornwall – it is not known whether any of the properties are holiday lets

Boris Johnson will be hoping that the Queen’s Speech can get him back on track after Partygate and local election

Boris Johnson will bid to reset his premiership this week with plans in the Queen’s Speech to tear up old EU laws, Level Up the Red Wall and give locals more power over housing developments 

A map showing the most sought-after second home towns for British city dwellers, with Salcombe, Falmouth, St Ives, Brixham and Newquay in the South West all within the top six in demand

Another local resident, who didn’t want to be named, said the policy would be almost impossible to enforce.

He said lots of Londoners had bought up property during lockdown to secure for their retirement.

However, as a second home owner himself whose other property is in the north of England, he felt he had invested a lot in both areas and should not be punished for that.

Gary Suttle, who is a local councillor based in the Victorian seaside town of Swanage, said: ‘They already do that. If it’s empty and you don’t use it you pay double.

‘I’ve come across local cases (in Dorset) where council tax has been doubled because the property is empty and they are living abroad.

‘If you are trying to protect an area from second homes it’s probably a good idea.

‘But other areas have second home economies and are hugely dependent on second home owners who spend huge amounts of money on plumbers, builders and local services.

‘The government should not be doubling up council tax, they should be addressing affordable housing.

‘That’s the problem in an area like Swanage – builders getting out of providing affordable housing. They are tackling the wrong problem.’

It comes after a government source told the Telegraph that wealthy owners who leave homes unused will be expected to contribute to ‘crucial services in a way that can really benefit the whole community and boost levelling up’. One option would be to deploy the revenue to cut council tax. 

Properties that are not even furnished will face a 100 per cent increase in council tax after 12 months, rather than the current two years.

As part of the package, local residents are expected to be given the right to be consulted on ‘design codes’ spelling out the standards that housing developments must meet.

Ministers will look at how the planning inspectorate handles targets on local housing requirements, with greenbelt and areas of natural beauty no longer forced to meet ‘unrealistic’ goals as long as they produce a plausible plan.

A fast-track application category could also be added to the planning system for small builders in an effort to ‘level the playing field’ with big developers.

The measures are contained in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, according to The Times.

Tom Tugendhat, Tory MP for Tonbridge and Malling, said planning was one of the most damaging topics for the party.  

‘One of the things that came up even more for me in the south of England was planning and we need to address the fact that the Garden of England cannot become the Patio of England,’ he said.

‘We need to make sure that communities across the United Kingdom have a say in what is built near them.’

A plan to rid high streets of ‘derelict shopfronts’ and restore neighbourhood pride, with councils given extra powers to force landlords to rent out empty shops, will form another plank of the Queen’s Speech.

Other measures will include the ability to make the pavement cafes which sprang up during the Covid-19 pandemic a permanent part of the town centre landscape.

Under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill measures to revive England’s high streets, councils will be given powers to take control of buildings for the benefit of their communities.

Compulsory rental auctions will ensure that landlords make shops that have been vacant for more than a year available to prospective tenants.

Authorities will also be given greater powers to use compulsory purchase orders to deliver housing, regeneration schemes and infrastructure.

It comes as furious residents of some of Britain’s most picturesque seaside towns have slammed wealthy Londoners for snapping up second homes in the area during the pandemic and pricing them out of the housing market. 

Covid lockdowns and the rise of flexible working saw a surge of Londoners travelling outside of the capital, spending a record £54.9bn on properties outside the city last year – the highest value on record by far.

However, the rush for second homes has brought misery to residents of the most popular towns, with soaring house values pricing young people out of the housing market.

Now, with wealthy Londoners firing up their Chelsea tractors and preparing to descend on their holiday getaways to soak up the Easter sun, more residents have shared their fury and called for curbs to protect property for locals. 

And, with airport chaos plaguing foreign holidays and the pandemic-inspired revival of the staycation, locals are also bracing for a surge in AirBnB visitors, fuelling further worries about congestion and noise. 

Seaside towns (pictured: Salcombe in Devon) are bracing for an onslaught of Londoners rushing to their second homes and AirBnB lets this Easter – after watching the properties be hoovered up by wealthy city-dwellers during the pandemic


Meg Ennis, 70 (left), who works in the Sugar Mountain sweet shop in North Berwick, has lived in the town since 1970 and said there has been a rise in Airbnbs and the parking is ‘diabolical’. Sarah Ronzevelli, who runs the Salt Pig Too restaurant in Swanage, said she had been searching for an affordable home there for four years to no avail


Katie Wallis (left) and Phil Hammill (right) have described mounting local concern in Robin Hood’s Bay around second homes

One example that came to light this week was the North Yorkshire village of Robin Hood’s Bay where it has been claimed that only 30 per cent of properties are now owned by locals – with all but five in the area near the harbour believed to be either second homes or holiday lets. 

The average house in the village now fetches £373,000 – more than 12 times average annual earnings in the area and out of the reach of first-time buyers.

The issue is creating divisions in picturesque parts of Britain between locals who profit from tourism and those who do not – with MailOnline visiting a number of other second-home UK hotspots this week to find out more.

Among them was North Berwick in East Lothian, where established residents fear the town is unable to maintain the rising demand from tourists amid a picture of ‘not so many bed and breakfasts and loads more Airbnbs’.

Another was Swanage in Dorset, where locals said that younger people can no longer afford to rent or buy there and are moving away amid a boom in second home ownership – while skilled workers are also moving out.

Well-established tourist hotspots such St Ives in Cornwall have introduced restrictions on new builds being sold as second homes but it is said that such bans often do not solve the property crisis and instead harm tourism.

In December, Salcombe topped the list for British city dwellers’ most sought-after second home town followed by Falmouth in Cornwall and North Berwick in East Lothian.

Second homes and holiday lets in the South West are the most popular, with Salcombe, Falmouth, St Ives, Brixham and Newquay all within the top six in demand, according to a study by Lakeshore Leisure Group. 

However, there are also fears about the impact of staycationers over the Easter weekend, with thousands of Brits planning to stay in the UK amid chaos at the airports.  

The huge influx of visitors to the seaside and mountains of North Wales led to a warning from health chiefs.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said there was ‘unprecedented demand’ across the whole health and care system in North Wales.

Easter weekend holiday traffic queuing on the westbound A35 near Dorchester in Dorset as holidaymakers flock to the coast to enjoy the scorching hot sunshine on Good Friday

 Rich Londoners are firing up the Chelsea tractors and motoring to seaside towns across the country to enjoy the first Covid-restriction free Easter Bank Holiday in more than two years. Pictured: Westbound traffic on the A303 towards Devon and Cornwall

In one case, a Cornish hotel worker claims she will be made homeless this week due to out-of-towners snapping up properties to use as holiday homes.

Jasmin Or, 24, grew up in the beauty spot of St Ives and said she cannot find a new place to rent for when her tenancy agreement ends on May 10.

She has exhausted letting agents and spare room sites, and fears she will be sleeping rough in the space of three weeks.

She said: ‘I’m wondering if this place will seem as beautiful to me when I’m sleeping on a bench in three weeks.

‘There’s no homes left. Everything has been turned into second homes now and that’s the issue. They’re all Airbnbs and a lot of locals have been driven out of their homes now to accommodate for the summer.’

Cornwall Council said there is ‘an imbalance in supply and demand’ that the county has never seen before.

St Ives MP Derek Thomas said in December last year that around 100 families compete for every available three-bedroom home in parts of Cornwall.

Covid lockdowns and the rise of flexible working saw a surge of Londoners spending a record £54.9bn on properties outside the city last year – the highest value on record by far.

However, the rush for second homes has brought misery to residents of the most popular towns, with soaring house values pricing young people out of the housing market.

The housing problem in Cornwall was accelerated during the pandemic when ‘staycations’ boomed. Increased demand for second homes in the beach town drove up prices even further – with the cost of rent nearing that seen in London.

Ms Or pays £800 rent – not including any bills – for a room in a two-bedroom house. She has no family home she can return to and is now faced with sleeping rough as she believes it would be a miracle to find alternative accommodation with summer approaching.

Renting a property in St Ives through popular lodging site Airbnb will cost her £150 a night at the moment – £4,500 a month.

Cornwall Council paid out almost £170million in Covid-19 grants to holiday let businesses in Cornwall. It is estimated that more than half of that money went to people who live outside the county.

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