CPRE says holiday lets are “strangling rural communities”

The SW needs tourism, and lots of TV shows about Cornwall display it as an attractive proposition to visit, but also show it as a good place to invest in property. Having just received an email from Rightmove, you see the issue.

Some of the most popular coastal areas have seen a big jump in average asking prices, especially in the West Country, with several towns and villages in Devon and Cornwall seeing the biggest price growth in the past 12 months.

Padstow in Cornwall topped the list

More from Rightmove’s Top 10:

 Padstow, Cornwall

Average asking price: £658,588

Annual asking price increase: 20%

This famous foodie town and fishing village is massively popular with holiday-makers, as well as second home buyers and home-movers looking to make a lifestyle change. Huge levels of demand pushed average asking prices up by 20% in 2021, from £548,382, to £658,588. Despite high asking prices, it’s easy to see why this incredibly pretty place is sought-after, with its quaint tangle of streets, picturesque harbour, and idyllic walks along the South West Coast Path.


St. Ives, Cornwall

Average asking price: £473,161

Annual asking price increase: 15%

St. Ives has sunning sandy beaches and a stylish town centre with lots to do. Houses with sea views exchange hands for well over £1 million, but you could pick up a two-bedroom cottage here for around £450,000, or a one-bedroom flat for around £200,000.

Newquay, Cornwall

Average asking price: £317,846

Annual asking price increase: 13%

Newquay is one of Cornwall’s best-known tourist towns, famous for its surfing, its choice of 12 sandy beaches, and its busy nightlife. The crowds descend in summer, but there are miles of open countryside to explore just inland. Newquay saw a real boom of apartment building in the early 2000s, and there are plenty of sea view flats around, as well as modern beach houses, traditional cottages, and family terraces.


Brixham and Paignton in Devon also feature.

What CPRE says:

As housing for local people in Cornwall and Devon becomes harder to find, and as rent prices are alarmingly high, a surge in the number of homes marketed for Airbnb-style short-term lets is crippling the residential rentals market, says CPRE.

Not only that, but infrastructure in rural communities breaks down if there is no all-year-round demand for services like shops, pubs, transport and schools.

The countryside charity says:

The problem is most acute in staycation hotspots, where hundreds of homes previously available to rent to local people have been switched to short-stay holiday rentals. The worsening housing crisis – which is particularly acute in rural areas – has seen thousands of families added to social housing waiting lists.

A steep decline in the number of new social housing projects completed since 2013 is compounding the problem.

That is why CPRE, the countryside charity, is calling for tighter controls on second home ownership, including higher council tax on second homes and the requirement for short-term lets to have planning permission. Additionally, the definition of ‘affordable’ must be changed in national planning policy, with rents being tied to local incomes rather than market prices. To level up our rural communities, changes to planning law and policy should be committed to in the government’s forthcoming Planning Bill, requiring at least one new genuinely affordable home for every market home built.

In many areas, such as the SW, social housing waiting lists could be drastically reduced or even eliminated if the number of properties advertised for short term let were available for local families instead, the analysis shows:

  • In Cornwall, which saw short term listings grow 661% in the five years to September 2021, there are roughly 15,000 families on social housing waiting lists and the same number of properties being marketed as holiday lets;
  • In Devon, short-term lets appear to be worsening an existing housing crisis, with nearly 4,000 homes taken out of private rent and 11,000 added to short-term listings since 2016.

According to a Cornwall Council housing heat map from Nov 2021, Poundstock near Bude has 42% second homes. Other hotspots are St Minver area ranging from 69-71%, St Merryn (60%) and Padstow (43%) among others. The worst-hit parishes seem to mainly be coastal which comes as no surprise.

Devon County Council said in November that:

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show house price inflation in Devon is running at 13.4 per cent – more than Cornwall or Somerset – and some parts of the county are even higher. North Devon at 22.4 per cent is in the top 10 districts in the country for house price growth with Torridge on 19.8 per cent, the South Hams at 15.5 per cent and East Devon on 14.8 per cent.

Figures produced for Team Devon show Air B&B offering 253 rentals in Exmouth compared with just four residential lettings. In Ilfracombe, the figures are 326 compared to four.

beautiful beach

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said:

‘Across our most traditional rural communities, from the beaches of Cornwall to the lakes of Cumbria, homes that used to be rented to local families sit empty for much of the year. More people are pushed onto social housing waiting lists, which have been stretched to breaking point by years of underinvestment. Hard working people are suffering and they will not easily forgive a government that promised to level them up if it leaves them falling through the cracks of a broken system.

‘It’s clear the government needs to act fast to avert a growing housing crisis. With the cost of living set to hammer people’s finances in the coming year, this is a problem that’s quickly getting out of hand. There simply has to be a government response to the fact that our rural housing supply is disappearing into an unregulated short-term rentals market that simply didn’t exist six years ago. Ministers must introduce tighter controls on second home ownership, including higher council tax on second homes and the requirement for short term lets to have planning permission.’

Separate analysis by CPRE found the demand for social housing was growing nearly six times faster than the rate of supply in rural areas. At current rates, the backlog of low-income families needing accommodation would take 121 years to clear. Figures show 8,898 households were added to social housing waiting lists in 88 rural local authority areas between 2019-20, the last year for which figures are available, with just 1,453 social homes delivered. In total 176,058 rural families were waiting for accommodation in 2020, up from 167,160 in 2019.

Selaine Saxby, Conservative MP for North Devon, added:

‘We need to make the long-term rental market more sustainable and attractive. We cannot rely on building ever more homes if they are not going to be lived in by local residents. Our excellent housing associations in North Devon do great work in building modern affordable homes, but they will not be able to keep up with demand if the balance between short term and long term private rental markets is not restored.’

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