Cornish shop owners have said they ‘completely rely’ on holidaymakers in St Ives and urged locals to ‘just move forward’ amid a backlash over staycationers and second home owners swamping the seaside town.
Around 540,000 day trippers and more than 220,000 staying tourists visit St Ives in Cornwall every year, with the tourism industry accounting for around 2,800 jobs in the area – that’s almost one in four people who live there.
Stefan Harkon, an RNLI lifeguard in the town for many years, said that at times ‘people in the town feel that they are just operatives in a theme park’, adding: ‘We work in an area but we can’t live in it.’
But Sarah Hocking, who owns the clothing store Fabulous in St Ives, told MailOnline that 85% of her business is funded by tourism, saying: ‘You live in a town that is manic at times but you kind of just work around it.’
She added: ‘It can sometimes be a bit intense, but you can avoid the town at various times and a lot of the locals do. What we don’t want to do is frighten holidaymakers off by how we talk about them.
‘It was mad last year but we knew it was never going to be like that again. In fact since Christmas there has been a massive downturn in trade and I know it’s not just us.’
And Jane Friggens, who runs St Ives’ Allotment Deli, said the town ‘relies on an increase in footfall’ and warned that shops ‘are closing every day’, adding: ‘Can’t we all just move forward and get on?’
Around 540,000 day trippers and more than 220,000 staying tourists visit St Ives (pictured above) in Cornwall every year,, with the tourism industry accounting for around 2,800 jobs in the area – that’s almost one in four people who live there
Holidaymakers walk the narrow streets on August 9, 2020, in St Ives, Cornwall. Stefan Harkon, an RNLI lifeguard in the town for many years, said that at times ‘people in the town feel that they are just operatives in a theme park’
Sarah Hocking (left), who owns the clothing store Fabulous in St Ives, told MailOnline that 85% of her business is funded by tourism, while Jane Friggens (right), who runs St Ives’ Allotment Deli, said the town ‘relies on an increase in footfall’
Ms Friggens wrote on Facebook last month: ‘We as a tourist town rely on an increase in footfall, whether it’s visitors from other parts of Cornwall or further away, we bloody need you.
‘Shops are closing every day, landlords are doubling our rents, pubs, restaurants are losing staff and bookings.’
She added: ‘Can’t we all just move forward and get on, don’t be rude, whoever you are, we are all trying our best, on minimum wages.’
The post from April 19 was met with widespread approval from fellow business owners in the area.
Sharon Spencer, who runs the holiday rental agency So So St Ives, commented: ‘We wouldn’t have a business if it wasn’t for the holidaymakers, we need visitors, most people are lovely and friendly.’
Referring to complaints from Cornish workers over holidaymakers being ill-mannered, Ms Hocking said: ‘We can all be rude at times but it’s always made out to be the holidaymakers’ fault. We’ve got to be really careful.’
And on the surge in second homes, she added: ‘I completely sympathise and do think locals have been priced out, but don’t believe it’s fair to blame second homeowners completely. It’s a double-edged sword.
‘People can work really hard to buy a second home with some remortgaging their own houses, or others working really hard to buy one with their pension.
‘There is a housing shortage but that’s an issue everywhere with house prices rocketing and people cashing in.’
Her comments come as homes for sale in the area, especially those on the harbourside, now range between £700,000 and £1million, with the average price now at £440,000, more than 17 times the average salary of Cornwall’s year-round residents.
Referring to complaints from Cornish workers over holidaymakers being ill-mannered, Ms Hocking (pictured above) said: ‘We can all be rude at times but it’s always made out to be the holidaymakers’ fault. We’ve got to be really careful’
Referring to tourism in the area, Ms Hocking added: ‘It can sometimes be a bit intense, but you can avoid the town at various times and a lot of the locals do. What we don’t want to do is frighten holidaymakers off by how we talk about them’. Pictured: the clothing store Fabulous in St Ives, Cornwall
Families who have lived in St Ives for generations are being forced out as millionaires bank up land or homes, renting them out for up to £7,000-a-week.
There is now a growing campaign to bring in a ‘tourism tax’ for those buying second homes and a limit on Airbnb properties in a town where up to a third of children on one estate live in poverty.
‘We have a town where the rich people come to on holiday, when in some part of St Ives more than a third of children live below the bread line,’ Camilla Dixon, the co-founder of the First Not Second Homes campaign group, said.
‘It is having a detrimental effect. We depleted our social housing stock when they were sold in the 80s. Because the value of land has gone up, developers have been land-grabbing and land banking to make more money. It means genuine social housing development are being priced out.’
St Ives Town Council admitted there is not much it can do with its tiny budget and even bigger constraints but insisted it will review its neighbourhood plan and the impact of tourism.
Camilla Dixon (left), the co-founder of the First Not Second Homes campaign group, said second homes are ‘not good for the economy’; while Jo Howard (right) said people are ‘telling us they’re being evicted from their homes to make way for Airbnbs’
Tourists gather at St Ives Harbour in Cornwall during hot weather over the Easter bank holiday weekend last month
It is also lobbying Cornwall Council to let it develop land the larger authority is sitting on even though it has been earmarked for social housing, and is campaigning for a limit on Airbnbs in hotspots like St Ives as has happened in places such as Amsterdam or Barcelona.
Louise Dwelly, the town clerk, said: ‘The level of council tax is going down because there are more second homes which do not pay tax as they are registered as businesses.
‘That means the running of the town is more expensive for the people who live here as it is spread across fewer people. We are also campaigning for the law to be changed for a tourism tax.’
Current Conservative MP Derek Thomas recently put pressure on his Whitehall colleagues for changes to the law to address the housing crisis in Cornwall by making long-term tenancies more attractive to landlords than holiday lets.
Speaking in a debate about affordable homes in Devon and Cornwall, held in the Houses of Parliament, he said: ‘The situation is urgent right now. I have so many constituents who are in a desperate situation and it needs rapid and effective intervention that provides a secure home for life.
The west Cornwall seaside town has been a popular tourist destination since the St Ives Bay Line opened in 1877
Despite its homes overlooking Porthmeor Beach, St Ives also has some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Cornwall
Locals in St Ives have been priced out, so the little housing stock there is left can make way for holiday lets and second homes
‘We are losing these valuable homes, that people enjoy because of legislation that applies to private landlords but doesn’t necessarily apply to holiday lets. I don’t believe it’s a level playing-field.’
The issue of second homes in St Ives is so acute that in 2016 residents voted to ban new-build housing from being second-homes, with 83 per cent in favour. According to Rightmove, average house prices in the town are now at £440,000, more than 17 times the median annual earnings of someone in Cornwall.
Houses for sale in the town, especially those on the harbourside, regularly appear for sale with price tags ranging up to £700,000 or £1million.
Despite its £1million homes overlooking the harbour or Porthmeor Beach, St Ives sadly boasts some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Cornwall. Some 36 per cent of children living on the Penbeagle estate live in poverty. That’s 92 children out of the 255 living there.
According to the Children’s Society vulnerable children in Cornwall are more likely to receive free school meals than five years ago. Data from the Department of Education shows that by the end of the 2020-21 school year, 57 per cent of Cornwall’s children in need were eligible for free school meals – up from 40 per cent at the same point in 2016-17.
St Ives also faces a shortage of rentals; in 2021, while there were more than 1,000 properties in the town available for short-term holiday let, there was only one long-term house available to rent.