Burgeoning numbers of second homes in picturesque areas can have a dramatic impact on property prices and a community’s character. In one case that starkly raised that issue, the High Court approved plans to restrict ownership of newly built homes in a seaside town to those who intend to use them as their principal residences.
More than 80 per cent of the town’s residents had voted in favour of the restriction following a local referendum in respect of a neighbourhood plan, held under the aegis of the Localism Act 2011. In challenging the restriction, however, a developer argued that it would violate householders’ human rights to respect for their homes.
The developer pointed out that owners of new homes subject to the restriction would be at risk of planning enforcement action, and ultimately criminal prosecution, if they used their properties as second or holiday homes. The definition of ‘principal residence’ was problematic and the restriction was likely to seriously depress the market for construction of new homes in the town.
In dismissing the challenge, however, the Court noted evidence of uncontrolled growth of second and holiday homes in the town and was unimpressed by arguments that that was causing no demonstrable harm. The neighbourhood plan had been exhaustively examined before being put to referendum and the restriction in respect of new-build homes would be reflected in their prices. Purchasers would be aware of the restriction and the potential consequences of disobedience.