Campaigners claim most properties in Suffolk town are holiday homes
- Credit: Archant
A two-day street survey in a popular town on the Suffolk coast has found a majority of residential properties are now holiday homes.
The Southwold Liberal Democrats carried out the recent poll in the town as part of its campaign to close a tax loophole on second home ownership.
Earlier this year, the party branch warned that a minority of Suffolk second home owners were registering properties as holiday-let businesses to avoid paying council tax.
By applying for rate relief the property owners could also get up to 100 per cent exemption on business rates, meaning they paid no tax at all.
While many of the properties may genuinely be let-out to holidaymakers, the campaigners criticised the loose criteria required to register a holiday business and the ease of claiming rate relief.
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And during the recent street survey, the party branch members claimed many of Southwold's 263 registered holiday lets were empty.
'If they can't fill their lets in June, they can't really be trying hard as a business,' said David Beavan, who lives in the town and has organised an online petition to close this loophole.
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'This is not fraud, however, because they only have to say they are going to let.
'They don't have to actually let, at all, to qualify as a business and avoid rates – according to this ridiculous loophole.'
During the street survey, the campaigners also claimed that only a few of the properties had waste trade bins, which would be required if they were classed as holiday let businesses.
Waveney District Council has been asked to provide a list of trade waste collections to check whether it matches with the holiday let businesses,
'Just over half the houses in the town were empty which is no good for local businesses or the local community,' Mr Beavan added.
'Southwold is now at the point of no return. We must act now to save our community.'
The campaigners are using the online petition to get in touch with other affected communities – Northumberland, Cornwall, The Lake District, Devon and Norfolk.
In a leaflet to households in Southwold and Reydon, they ask people to 'help us close the loophole so that second home owners pay their fair share'.
People are urged to contact their MP, sign a petition at parliament.uk/petitions/219417 or in paper form.