Mevagissey votes for ban on second homes to stave off ‘ghost village’

It is one of Cornwall’s prettiest villages and makes its living from tourism — but residents of Mevagissey have banned the second-home owners they blame for destroying their community. They say Mevagissey is turning into a “ghost village” dominated by houses that are empty for much of the year and last week they voted 90% in favour of banning outsiders from buying new homes. 

It marks a trend that has seen similar revolts in other beauty spots such as St Ives, also in Cornwall, and Seahouses, Northumberland. “Mevagissey is an iconic Cornish fishing village and we want it to stay that way,” said Garth Shephard, a parish councillor who co-wrote the plan proposing the ban. “We want to preserve our community spirit and not feel swamped by large houses that are seldom occupied.”

The average asking price for new homes in Mevagissey is £300,000. This is twenty times the average local salary of £15,450, making it impossible for residents to get mortgages. About one in four properties in Mevagissey is a second home. The anger has been fuelled by disputes over a luxury development there by Westcountry Land & Homes, a local company which recently built 12 homes despite opposition from residents and the parish council. Justin Dodge, a director of Westcountry Land & Homes, said that the vote had been “counter-productive” and described the area as “a hostile environment” for property developers. “Every part of the UK must take its share of housing, including fishing villages like Mevagissey,” he said.

The vote means local planning rules will be rewritten to say new homes should be both affordable and available only to locals. Such battles reflect a national concern over “vanishing villages” with hundreds engulfed by housing that sees them losing any separate identity. 

About 1,300 villages disappeared under such rural sprawl between 2001 and 2011, according to the Office for National Statistics. Most were in Surrey, Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Sussex. 

The battle in Mevagissey follows a ban brought in by three Northumberland parishes, including Seahouses, last month with 90% support in the vote.  Lois Lane, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Second homes in tourist hot spots price out local people and contribute to the hollowing-out of communities, creating ghost villages for much of the year.”

Such battles will be repeated across England where the population is predicted to rise from 54m in 2014 to 63m by 2039. The government wants 3.8m more homes to be built by then, a problem made worse by the demand for second homes. “We have 2,000 people supposedly living here but our village [is] a lifeless shell in winter,” said Shephard. Theresa May campaigned in the village in 2017.