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