Southwold councillor who likened town to Tolkien’s Shire calls for ban on ‘new second homes’
- Credit: Archant
New second homes should be banned because they cast a 'dark shadow' over a coastal town, a councillor has said.
David Beavan, Waveney district councillor for Southwold and Reydon, compared Southwold to JRR Tolkien's Shire because of the problem the issue causes.
About 60 per cent of homes in the town are reported to be empty for large periods of the year - but Mr Beavan said his qualm was not with second home owners themselves but the way that some people claim to operate as a holiday let business, slashing their council tax payments.
'If you say you're a business, you can register as a business to pay business rates,' he said.
'[But] If you are smaller than a business then you get 100pc rate release, so you pay neither business rates nor council tax.
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'I went round in June and you can see those claiming to be a business, and 80% of them were empty.
'It's probably costing us about half a million a year.'
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He argued that closing this tax loophole and banning 'purpose-built' second homes could pump much needed funds into affordable housing.
Mr Beavan said that some of the money could be saved by incorporating a new rule into the neighbourhood plan, stating that 'any new build must be for local residents' – similar to a scheme currently in place in Cornwall.
The savings could then be spent on 'affordable homes for the local people so they can afford to live here'.
In Southwold, Mr Beavan found 354 small businesses were claiming relief last year, of which 263 were second home holiday lets. All the second home businesses were claimed to have qualified for rate relief, amounting to £551,744.
Separate research by this newspaper found 190 of the 387 businesses registered in Aldeburgh's IP15 post code area were holiday lets.
When asked about his vision for Southwold, Mr Beavan said he was keen to attract young people with new ideas in an effort to bring a new lease of life to the town.
'We don't want to go back in time,' he said. 'We want to encourage young families here. We want to diversify the economy.
'We value tourism, but it would be nice to have some new industries.'
If nothing is done to fill the empty homes in Southwold, Mr Beavan said: 'It is going to end up as a facade.'