Property investors accused of squeezing the life out of picturesque Suffolk resort and distorting economy
“We don’t wish to be sounding nimby, or that we’re not keeping up with the times,” worries Will Windell, a Southwold councillor, “but you need to see the effect that this stuff has in a real way on a small community.” The stuff, for the full-time residents of Suffolk’s picturesque coastal town, is the news that second-home owners in the area are exploiting a legal loophole to dodge council tax. “We’re subsidising all the local services,” says Windell, exasperated, in an impromptu meeting conducted over a dining table. “We pay for the refuse collection and the roads; these guys don’t, and it’s distorting the local economy.”
Earlier this month David Beavan, a retired farmer and Liberal Democrat candidate in the upcoming Southwold and Reydon byelection for the district council, researched Southwold’s most desirable streets – rows of grand townhouses and charming cottages closest to the beach – and discovered that 260 properties were registered as small businesses, intended as holiday lets for a minimum of 140 days per year and without any obligation to fulfil that requirement or to then pay any council tax. According to his follow-up survey, around 80% of those houses stood empty most of the time.