Communities Week 2017: Neighbourhood Planning Champion, Cornwall Councillor for the Rame Peninsula and Chairman of the Rame Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan, Cllr George Trubody talks about his experiences working with the BBC and shaping their neighbourhood planning story on Countryfile.
I was taken aback when I first received a call from a researcher for BBC One’s Countryfile about the Rame Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan. She said that they had seen the coverage about our headline ‘second homes’ policy in national papers, and wanted to do a feature on how neighbourhood planning was having an impact in rural communities in an area with a high number of second homes.
It was not a quick introduction, as I had to spend a long time explaining to researchers and producers, the what, where, and when of neighbourhood planning, starting with the 2011 Localism Act. This was essential to set the scene.
The filming day
A date and time was set for the crew to come down to Cornwall to film. They spent a day and a half filming in the twin Villages of Kingsand and Cawsand, and a day in St. Ives. They were really interested in the statistics that had led to the formation of the Principle Residence Policy for the Rame Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan.
According to 2011 figures from Cornwall Council, two of the five parishes in the Rame Peninsula have over 33% of holiday/second-homes. This was the initial catalyst to formulate a policy for new build dwellings as a principle residence only.
These figures were the most recent available to us and were not a true reflection on the current situation, so a member of our steering group did their own audit based on just one street in the village.The results were astounding.
There are 63 properties in Garrett Street:
- Holiday lets (properties which are available for holiday rental all year around) – 10
- Lived-in full time – 17
- Second homes (these properties are not let-out – they are used solely by the owners, so are empty most of the time) – 36
These were the statistics that the Countryfile feature really focused on in our Neighbourhood Plan. They showed that there really was a big problem with future sustainable housing if any new builds were going to be lost to the holiday homes market.
During the filming of Countryfile, the Rame Peninsula Neighbourhood Development Plan was with the independent inspector being assessed, and we knew there was a lot of media attention around the first policy, which was:
Rame NDP Policy 1: New Housing – Primary Residency (Area Wide)
Planning permission for new dwellings (excluding replacement dwellings), within the Rame Peninsula NDP area, will only be permitted where they hold a planning condition setting out that they are either:
- to be occupied as a primary residence (occupied for at least 300 days per year); or,
- to be operated as a holiday letting business.
Since the screening of Countryfile, the examiner has concluded her report and allowed the plan to go to referendum, subject to some rewording of policy, which will help to improve the plan, and make the policies more robust.
The most notable addition was the new wording, as recommended by the Independent Examiner, to the Primary Residency Policy. After approval from the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group and Cornwall Council it now says:
Edited – Rame NDP Policy 1: New Housing – Principal Residency (Area Wide)
Due to the impact upon the local housing market of the continued uncontrolled growth of dwellings used for holiday accommodation (as second or holiday homes) new open market housing will only be permitted where there is a condition restricting occupancy as a Principal Residence. Principal residences are defined as those occupied as the residents’ sole or main residence, where the resident spends the majority of their time when not working away from home or living abroad.
The condition placed on new open market homes will require that they are occupied by the owner or their tenants as their primary (principal) residence. Owners of homes with a Principal Residence condition will be required to keep proof that they are meeting the condition, and be willing to provide this proof if/when Cornwall Council requests this information. Proof of Principal Residence is via verifiable evidence including (but not limited to) residents being registered on the local electoral register and being registered for and attending local services (such as healthcare, schools, etc.).
This improvement to the policy is very much welcomed, and helps to deliver what the community wants, as evidenced in all the consultations, surveys, workshops and data gathering that was done in the early days of the emerging plan. It goes to show the power of neighbourhood planning, and what a community can achieve to address a problem that has been ignored for so long.
Some people will say it is too late to re-balance the number of holiday homes on the Rame Peninsula, but I do not see the completion of the neighbourhood plan as being the end of the journey, on the contrary, it’s just the beginning!
The Rame Peninsula Neighbourhood Development Plan will go to a referendum on 4 May 2017.
By Cllr George Trubody, Cornwall Councillor for the Rame Peninsula, Chairman of the Rame Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan Parish Cluster Steering Group and Neighbourhood Planning Champion
Find out more about Rame Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan