There are occasions in this job where it is possible to make a real difference and the way that Cornwall’s MPs have secured tangible improvements in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to help secure the homes residents in Cornwall and on Scilly need is such an example. We all know the challenges we face in relation to housing and the dilemma of protecting our beautiful landscape, sustaining a viable tourism trade and ensuring people who live, and work here have somewhere to live!
A lack of the housing people need to enable them to live, work and play a full part in the local community is not a new problem for Cornwall and Scilly but it has certainly become acute following the covid pandemic. The demand for staycations (fuelled by ever stringent rules and tax changes) has seen massive numbers of long let properties switched to short lets meeting a demand for short breaks at the expense of those needing the security of a permanent home. The discovery of Work From Home has seen homes snapped up by people with an understandable desire to strike a healthy live/work balance in Cornwall and seemingly the resource to outbid a local family. And we have more homes approved for building but yet to be built than families on our housing list. So the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill passed by the Commons on Tuesday has a job of work to do, which I believe, with the sensible amendments supported by myself and many others, can offer a framework that will see a shift in how we deliver the homes our communities need. A shift for the better.
Very early on my Cornish colleagues and I pressed for some consideration to be given to how we ensure houses built to meet a local need can enjoy the protection of staying that way. This Bill establishes a registration scheme for holiday rentals and consults on whether planning permission should be required for new holiday rentals, especially in tourist hotspots. This will address the difficulty many families have faced by curtailing the opportunity for a landlord to switch their home into a holiday let. With this measure in place Cornwall Council and other local authorities can assess the housing need and choose to decline a ‘change of use’ application so protecting that home for permanent residence. With planning permissions granted and little progress made to build the homes I’m glad that the Government has made the central plank of this legislation about enabling the building of the right homes in the right places with the right infrastructure. This will come as a huge relief to communities who have felt forced to accept housing that spoils the natural environment but does little to meet the local need. It will also come as a huge relief to the communities who have worked tirelessly to identify the homes that are needed and where they should go through Neighbourhood Plans. It confirms the fact that, when you empower a local community to fashion and design its own destiny, people step forward, giving their time to meet the challenge and win the arguments. I’ve seen this over and over again only for the Inspectorate or Cornwall Council to take a different position if only to meet a demand placed on Cornwall by Whitehall. With this bill, brownfields will take precedence over green fields, local communities needs over top down diktat and the confidence that priority will be given to those who live and work and play a full part in their community.
So, this Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which passed in the Commons on Tuesday, has a job of work to do, which I believe, with the sensible amendments supported by myself and many others, can offer a framework that will see a shift in how we deliver the homes our communities need. A shift for the better. As the Bill works its way through the Lords, we’ll be watching to ensure these gains are not watered down.