As I was going to St Ives—restricting second home ownership
Planning analysis: The town of St Ives has voted to restrict the future development of second homes in the area. Peter Robinson, partner at Hunters (incorporating May, May & Merrimans) looks at whether the decision can be challenged, and its implications for lawyers, property developers and local authorities.
St Ives votes to restrict second home ownership, LNB News 10/05/2016 28
Residents of St Ives have overwhelmingly backed plans to restrict second home ownership. Following a referendum, 83% of voters backed proposals to only allow full-time residents to own new-build properties in St Ives and Carbis Bay.
What was this referendum about and why is it significant?
The Localism Act 2011 (LA 2011) created a process by which local communities could produce ‘Neighbourhood Development Plans’ (NDPs). If passed by an independent examiner and by a majority of voters in the NDP area in a referendum, an NDP can then be adopted by the local planning authority (LPA) as part of the relevant statutory development plan. An adopted NDP dictates what development will be permitted in the area.
The St Ives NDP contains a number of planning and planning-related policies. Policy H2 proposed that any new dwelling in the St Ives NDP area would be prevented from being used as a second home or as self-catering holiday accommodation. The question asked in the St Ives referendum was ‘Do you want Cornwall Council to use the neighbourhood plan for St Ives to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?’ As 80% of the voters in the referendum backed the proposed St Ives NDP, Policy H2 will now apply to the development of new dwellings in the St Ives NDP area until at least 2030.
If implemented, what will it mean in practice? Have any other areas implemented similar rules? If so, what effect have they had? Have there been any unforeseen challenges/difficulties?
The St Ives NDP will have to be formally adopted at Cornwall Council before it comes into force but Policy H2 provides that ‘new open market housing, excluding replacement dwellings, will only be supported where there is a restriction to ensure its occupancy as a “Principal Residence”’.
Principal residence is then defined as ‘those occupied as the residents’ sole or main residence, where the residents spend the majority of their time when not working away from home’. In practice, the policy will mean that occupiers of homes subject to this principal residence condition will be required to keep proof that they are meeting the obligation or condition and will be obliged to provide such proof if/when Cornwall Council requests that information. This proof would be verifiable evidence, which could include evidence of registration on the local electoral register or being registered for and using local services (such as healthcare, schools etc).
In her report, the examiner said that she had compared Policy H2 to other similar policies which had been accepted by other neighbourhood plan examiners, but while that process had been helpful, those other policies had been different in context and wording. Lynton and Lynmouth in Devon have obtained approval for an NDP with similar restrictions on development of second homes, but that decision seems not to have attracted the publicity that the St Ives decision has.
Is the decision likely to be challenged? If so, on what grounds and what are the likely next steps?
It is understood that a ‘local developer’ has lodged a challenge against the adoption of the St Ives NDP. Although no details of the basis of that challenge have become public, it is most likely to be an application for judicial review of one of the component parts of the process by which the St Ives NDP was passed. The objective is to succeed in proving that a person exercising an administrative function in that process exercised that function incorrectly and that either the decision itself should be set aside or remitted to be exercised on a different basis.