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MP: Devon and Cornwall rural bus service cuts fault of second homeowners

By GDemianyk  |  Posted: January 15, 2014

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The influx of second homeowners to Devon and Cornwall is destroying rural bus services in the region, a Westcountry MP has claimed.

Adrian Sanders, Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, said the growth of part-time residents with cars meant local people reliant on public transport were becoming “more isolated due to factors totally beyond their control”.

Devon and Cornwall have among the highest levels of second-home ownership, boasting about 26,000 holiday properties.

And in picture-esque rural and coastal villages, where the proportion of year-round dwellers is lower, recent arrivals are blamed for spiralling house prices and post office closures.

Mr Sanders made public his concerns during a Transport Select Committee hearing on transport that serves isolated communities.

The MP, who serves on the committee, told representatives from the industry: “I was born and brought up in Devon. I come at this from a very different angle. London-based organisations telling us what our problems are doesn’t go down very well at a local level.

“What we have seen is the loss of bus services as a direct consequence of a changed demography of losing full-time residents in many rural areas because of second-home owners.

“And there are villages in Cornwall and in Devon where over 50% of the community are now second-home owners. And so the people who have continued to live there have become more isolated due to factors totally beyond their control.”

The MP conceded it was “not the only reason” for the decline in countryside buses. Companies have suffered cuts to subsidies which make more services uneconomic.

But he added: “The centralisation that’s happening is also a consequence of the second home owners, because if the village school closes, the community hospital closes, all those hospitals close because there aren’t enough people. That just fuels the centralisation.”

During the hearing, Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said he “wouldn’t disagree” with the analysis, and Janice Banks, chief executive of Action with Communities in Rural England, said the reduction in bus services became a “self-fulfilling prophecy” as more people buy a car in replacement.

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5 comments

  • tim_bucktoo  |  January 17 2014, 8:12AM

    What part of manchester? I'm currently in the borough of Trafford. At its nearest point it 1 mile to Manchester town hall, furthest point 9 miles. The average house in Trafford is greater than Devon. Houses in Hale Barns, less than 2 miles from Manchester airport can go for over £7m!!

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  • hello_world  |  January 15 2014, 11:20PM

    It's no coincidence that house prices in Devon are like 3x that in Manchester. Manchester is richer, yet people from London don't want to own a cottage in Manchester, do they?

  • josdave  |  January 15 2014, 1:32PM

    The increase of second home owners in the Southwest has done nothing but harm. It is one of the main causes of overinflated house prices and, by taking over local councils, they have overridden the wishes of those who have been here all their lives. True they have got these homes by the previous owners being anxious to get the highest price instead of caring what the effect on the community might be.

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  • Bilbo999  |  January 15 2014, 12:44PM

    I had never really considered the effect of the levels of part-time residency on local bus services but there have been reports of a range of other effects on businesses and services and the result was generally that there was a reduction.

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  • DipStick  |  January 15 2014, 9:17AM

    " ... The MP conceded it was "not the only reason" for the decline in countryside buses. ...". Of course it isn't, and it's just a small part of the reason for declining bus services. The hamlet where I grew up had a bus on 2 days per week, with 2 return trips on each day. That was in the 60s and 70's. AFAIK it gets none now (just checked the timetable online - and no, it doesn't get any). But almost all of the houses were leased from Lord Falmouth and they're all now getting turned into holiday lets, so no 2nd home owner there. Unless, of course, you count Lord Falmouth as one. But then he'd be a 2nd/3rd/....../183rd .... home owner .... There is no single reason for it - but me thinks these MPs have a point to make on second homes rather than buses. As for PO closures, we've been through this before and that's more to do with the EU. DS

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