Second Home Ownership: Cumbria

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:16 am on 19th December 2018.

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Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 11:16 am, 19th December 2018

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and actually the next thing that I will talk about from the toolkit of things that the Government are doing is community housing plans and how the Government are directing the centrally raised money specifically into communities, such as his and mine, that have a high prevalence of second homes. But before we get on to those details, I will finish on stamp duty. It is worth noting the other significant support for first-time buyers in the form of the total removal of the need to pay stamp duty on homes worth up to £300,000. That will benefit many people in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. The Government will also consult in January on a new stamp duty land tax surcharge of 1% on non-residents buying residential property in England and Northern Ireland, to help to control house price growth and so help to ensure that residents of the UK can get on the housing ladder.

As the hon. Gentleman said, money should be channelled back into local communities, and I am pleased to tell him that that is exactly what is happening. The Government’s community housing fund has allocated part of the additional revenue raised from the higher stamp duty rates to areas with the potential to deliver community-led housing. That specifically includes areas, such as his and mine, with high rates of second home ownership. The community housing fund will make £163 million available across England between April 2018 and March 2020, and has already provided funding for numerous schemes since 2016. I think that this addresses the hon. Gentleman’s idea of a council tax premium to generate funds. This is already happening in his own constituency: £2.36 million has been allocated to South Lakeland District Council in the first year of the scheme, in recognition of its position as one of the authorities with the highest density of second homes and most affected by issues of local affordability. The money included £90,000 towards sheltered housing in Windermere, funding for the Helsington Community Land Trust to provide additional homes in Brigsteer, and salary funding for a community-led housing officer post. I am sure that those schemes will be warmly welcomed by the hon. Gentleman and others across South Lakeland, and I look forward to seeing how the local authority plans to use the remaining grant that it has to support further such schemes.

The final issue is neighbourhood planning. The planning system now enables local residents to put in place neighbourhood plans that manage second home ownership—notable is the one in St Ives. It is right that local residents should have the opportunity to express their views on the design of their areas, including the second home ownership of new builds, and ultimately to approve neighbourhood plans via a referendum. I am pleased to say that more than 700 such plans, including a number across the wider Lake district, are now in force.

I want to touch on the hon. Gentleman’s point about planning. I hope that he will forgive me: as I am not responsible for planning policy, I cannot answer him directly, but I spoke this morning to my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, who is responsible for planning and who is looking forward to his meeting with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can raise that particular issue with my hon. Friend. I am aware that the current case law around planning says that decisions on planning applications can be made only on the basis of a land use planning consideration. It is not clear that case law says that a switch from a primary home to a second home constitutes such a change, but the hon. Gentleman can discuss that with my hon. Friend.

To conclude, I am sympathetic to the issues raised by the hon. Gentleman. He makes a powerful case in representing his constituents and highlighting second home ownership constructively and positively. Although it is important to recognise that second home ownership can take different forms and deliver benefits, the Government recognise the potential issues faced by communities with a high proportion of second homes. That is why the Government have put in place the wide-ranging measures that I have set out. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that although the dynamics of individual choice and local housing markets are complex and best addressed at local level, the Government have been proactive over the past few years and, indeed, very recently in playing our part to help to address the issues. I look forward to continuing the conversation on this issue with the hon. Gentleman, his colleagues and others and with local authorities and communities so that we are doing everything we can to ensure that our local communities remain thriving, vibrant places that we are all proud to call home.

Question put and agreed to.

Sitting suspended.