Plan to restrict second homes in Purbeck faces further hurdle

The Purbeck Local Plan, which will provide a framework for future planning decisions across the area, is to face another consultation, delaying further the implementation of new rules on second homes in Purbeck.

The policy document has already taken eight years to get to this stage and still hasn’t been adopted despite being submitted by Dorset Council to the planning inspector in January 2019.

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Swanage Bay aerial view
Michael King

Swanage is a popular coastal town for second home owners

Catalogue of delays

In a catalogue of delays, all detailed on the Dorset Council website, the latest consultation is in response to new national guidance on dealing with nutrient pollution from wastewater in Poole Harbour.

Dorset Council has now opened a further, limited, consultation on this issue and other modifications, which began on Friday 10th November 2023 and will last for six weeks, closing on 22nd December 2023.

The Purbeck Local Plan was first conceived by the now defunct Purbeck District Council (PDC), to set out strategies for meeting the area’s need for more new homes while conserving the natural environment and beauty of Purbeck

The area covered by the document is the old PDC region, which includes Bere Regis, Lytchett Matravers, Wareham, West Lulworth and Wool, as well as Swanage. There are chapters on environment, housing, economy and local infrastructure.

Houses in Swanage

When the Purbeck Local Plan is adopted, new developments will only be allowed to be sold to those who will live in the homes as their primary residence

New build home only allowed to be sold as primary residence

The Purbeck Local Plan also includes a policy for restricting the sale of new build properties as second homes:

“New housing in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) will only be supported where there is a restriction in perpetuity to ensure that such homes are occupied only as a principal residence. This policy will also be applied to changes of use to residential (p169).”

This means that when the Purbeck Local Plan is adopted, any new housing built will only be able to be sold by developers as a primary residence and not a second home.

With the latest in a string of consultations ending on Friday 22nd December 2023, it clearly won’t be able to become policy until 2024 at the earliest.

Worth Matravers duck pond

The idyllic duck pond at Worth Matravers makes the village attractive to those wanting a weekend retreat

Second home hotspot in Purbeck

Dorset is one of the primary counties in England where second home ownership is at its highest; and within Dorset itself, Swanage and Purbeck are at the top of the table for towns and parishes with the highest levels of second homes.

Dorset Council figures from November 2022 reveal that Swanage had 1,032 properties classified as second homes, with approximately a further 1,000 across Purbeck, including the villages of Studland, Corfe Castle, Church Knowle, Lulworth, Langton Matravers, Worth Matravers and Wool.

Dorset Council figures for November 2022

  • Swanage: 1,032 second homes (17 percent of all homes in Swanage and 18 percent of all second homes in Dorset)
  • Purbeck including Swanage: approximately 2,000 second homes (approximately 35 percent of second homes in Dorset)
  • Dorset Council area: 5,722 second homes
An aerial view of West Lulworth Village looking down to the cove

The beauty of Lulworth Cove increases the price of properties with those living locally competing to purchase homes with those looking for a second property

Doubling council tax on second homes

In a separate legal move to reduce the number of empty second homes in England, the government’s Levelling Up Bill has now become law.

A key element of the Bill is to allow councils to double council tax on homes that are only occupied ‘periodically’ i.e. second homes and also allow a 100 percent council tax premium on homes which have been empty for a year or more.

According to the Local Government Association, the new law allows Dorset Council to start charging second home owners twice as much tax from 1st April 2024. The extra charge won’t apply if the property is let out for more than 70 days a year.

The policy is aimed to deter people leaving a second home empty for the majority of the year, rather than raising additional income.

The council started the process to introduce this measure but it was never voted on by councillors due to the delay in the passage of the Bill.

However now that it has been passed it could be effective soon, if Dorset Council finds the time to implement the measure. Dorset Council was approached for comment but has not yet responded.

Unforgettable views from the top of Nine Barrow Down out to Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle is a popular village and there are many second homes that are left empty for the majority of the year

Why empty homes matter

The extent of unoccupied homes, including second homes, in England has been highlighted in a new report published on Monday 13th November 2023 by the Local Government Association. The report says:

“In England, there are more reported cases of second homes than there are long term empty homes…

“Where council resources are limited, stretched, or focused on more pressing issues, expanding the description of an empty home to include the additional areas could lead to a corporate rethink of resources and allocated workload.

“Whether classed as a second home or falling into an unoccupied exempt category, any empty home is an unused, wasted resource, at a time of chronic housing need.”

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