Second homes keep Duchy afloat, says columnist looking to sell up
Second home owners who snap up rural properties at the expense of local first-time buyers are throwing a "vital" lifeline to beleaguered communities, one of the region's best-known inhabitants has said.
Novelist and newspaper columnist AN Wilson said economic necessity is reluctantly causing him to sell his seven-bedroom family retreat in Port Isaac, on the north coast of Cornwall.
The home, part of the landscape depicted as the fictional village of Portwenn in Martin Clunes's ITV series Doc Martin, was previously occupied by designer and television presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, while an arguably far greater selling point is its majestic views of the harbour.
Mr Wilson, author of Jesus, The Victorians and Dante In Love, said he "agonised" about being a wealthy "invader" when he and his wife Ruth bought Chicago House in the mid-1990s. But their opinions changed after becoming fully integrated members of the local community.
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He said his financial situation had triggered the tall property's sale, with agents Lillicrap Chilcott, for £499,999.
Writing in the Sunday Times, the award-winning biographer said: "Cornwall is one of the poorest parts of the country and its native industries – tin mining, china-clay quarrying, fishing and agriculture – have either been extinguished or squeezed by the world economic situation.
"Tourism is therefore vital for Cornwall's life and, however unfair it is that some people can afford holiday homes while young locals find it impossible to get started on the property ladder, the county would die without second homes and holiday-makers."
Mr Wilson's comments come after worrying but unsurprising figures from the Royal Bank of Scotland, which revealed the South West is "the most unaffordable region" outside London for first-time property buyers.
Prospective home owners have to spend four years saving for a deposit to claw their way on to the first rung of the housing ladder, the RBS report claimed, highlighting the "growing divide" between the Westcountry and the rest of the UK for those trying to afford their first home.
The writer added: "When I bought the house, I was employed as a columnist on two national newspapers and we lived the life of Riley.
"Now I must draw in my horns. I would keep the house forever if I could afford to do so, but I no longer have enough money to maintain it."
He added that, "on the whole", there was a "happy" co-existence of locals and second-home owners, despite his early fears that his status and income would make him stand apart from his new neighbours.