I am under no illusion as to the extent of problems that we have seen and are still seeing in the local housing market.
The issues around second homes, particularly in Croyde, was raised with me before I was even elected. I have repeatedly raised concerns about housing and planning at Westminster, as I do the with the many other issues that affect my constituents.
Most recently I spoke in a Private Members’ Bill with regard to Planning Enforcement and it was an opportune moment to once again bringing up second homes and the issues these create with ghost villages here in North Devon. In July, I asked a question to the Prime Minister on housing for local residents and I also spoke in a Westminster Hall debate arranged by my honourable friend, Bob Seeley MP, who has similar issues on the Isle of Wight.
Behind the scenes a number of us meet to discuss and submit ideas and suggestions to the upcoming Planning White Paper. We are working together for changes in planning which long term, but much of what can be done now, in the short term is by our local councils.
I wrote to North Devon Council in August this year to outline what they could be doing, without legislative changes, to help further. I understand that housing officers are doing their part and that the local restrictions on holiday lets moving to residential lets, that could be eased, are being looked at. The local housing campaigning group whom I have met on several occasions have stated, they need action now on their specific concerns around the lack of private rentals. The perfect storm created by the pandemic, mass evictions, a surge in staycations creating a buoyant holiday home market has exacerbated the shortage of private rentals, which is one of a number of housing concerns. The housing challenges in North Devon were here before the pandemic but many potential solutions and options do lie with the local planning authority, North Devon Council not national legislation.
I recently received a written response from the Rt Hon Chris Pincher and have met with him again. While the response will not be to everyone’s liking, it does set out some of the reasons why the changes that many, including myself, have been asking for, may not be part of the solution. I have and will continue to raise the differences within the national picture and what we are seeing here and in many other coastal areas.
I am working for the longer term to ensure that planning reforms and licencing help to not only provide affordable homes for locals but will rebalance the whole of the housing markets, and I hope local councils will also act rapidly where they can. We need to ensure we have a vibrant tourism industry, but one that also sees local people live, work and own their own home in the towns and villages they grew up in.
Westminster Hall, July 2021:
PMQs, July 2021
Planning Enforcement, November 2021