Second homes a double-edged sword in Cornwall's Rock

Image caption Jan Kane of Rockfish: "Rock would be nothing without second homes"

Cornwall was the local authority area where the greatest number of people recorded a second address, the 2011 Census has shown.

It is half-term and the roads of the Cornish seaside village of Rock are swelling with swish family cars.

The holidaymakers that have made Rock their second home have arrived.

Rock has attracted the affluent for years and the £4m price tags of the best houses are testament to its charms.

But the buying power of Rock's seasonal visitors is a double edged sword.

Jan Kane, of fishmongers Rockfish, admits she and many other shops probably would not exist without them.

"Without second homeowners we would not be here," she said.

"Local trade would not keep us going, like it or hate it.

"And it's not just food, there are gardeners, maintenance workers, the industry is huge.

Image caption Demand for second homes in Rock has pushed prices up to £4m

"We are a tourist area and second homes are part of it."

She added: "We are lucky that a lot of our visitors are very wealthy and they are very loyal.

"We just had a customer who spent £100 on fish. If you were running it for local people you would be waiting all day to make that."

Holidaymaker Chris Sowerbutts, who was staying in a second home owned by his family, has been visiting the area since he was a child.

Image caption Visitors Chris and Paula Sowerbutts support local shops

He and wife Paula, who were waiting for a ferry across the Camel estuary to Padstow, said second homeowners spent more money locally than other holidaymakers because they did not have to fork out for rent.

"We might have a big Tesco shop to start with, but we have an account with the local butcher and Spar," said Mr Sowerbutts.

"There is hardly any other industry here, tourism is it and locals benefit through the business that creates."

Donated land

Estate agents in the area said the recession had led to a dip in sales, but not of premium seafront homes which were still rising in price.

Pressure for second homes in Cornwall has helped push prices out of the reach of many local people who earned an average of £22,068 in April 2011, according to government figures.

But an innovative scheme in the centre of Rock has helped to ease the problem.

In 2008, a number of people in the Rock area helped build their homes on land donated by a farmer in a project run by the St Minver Community Land Trust.

The result is an estate of 20 self-build houses which were sold for about one third of their market value with the proviso that they must remain in the possession of local people.

Image caption DJ and Sarah Millward built their own home in Rock on land owned by a farmer

Computer programmer DJ Millward, 38, who moved in with his family in January, said: "It was an unbelievable opportunity for us.

"The year building it was hell, but the moment we moved in felt amazing.

"I am not against second homes per se but it has caused a problem.

"I am not sure where the answer lies, but there should be more schemes like this."

Cornwall Council has earmarked £4m for similar schemes.

Mark Kaczmarek, cabinet member for housing and planning, said: "Second homes are only a bad thing if they are not being lived in either by the owners or rented out.

"If they are being used they bring money into the economy.

"They should be lived in at least eight months a year or taxed heavily."

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