Sir Andrew Motion, the president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England caused something of stir last weekend by launching a salvo against second home owners in the Times.

There were about 1,100 second holiday homes in Shropshire in 2001. On the face of it, the 2011 census suggests there are rather less, but I greatly distrust this data which classifies 68% of second homes held for ‘other purposes’ than working or holidaying. It would not surprise me if there are nigh on 3,000 second homes in the county held for holiday purposes – around 2.5% of the total – but that is just a guess.

This is lower than the level of empty homes. In April 2009, 3.3% of properties in Shropshire were vacant – a statistic of far greater concern to me than second homes. Shropshire Council is beginning to tackle this problem, but it is too early to see how effective this long overdue strategy will be.

The real problem is that financial model for building affordable housing is all but broken. Even if funds for housing investment were flowing freely, many rural communities have yet to face up to the reality that at least some affordable rural housing will have to be built on greenfield land. This must be resolved quickly, but my favoured route of doing so, neighbourhood planning, is proceeding at a glacial pace. There are only around 800 neighbourhood plans underway in England, and only one neighbourhood development plan in progress here in Shropshire.

If rural communities are to survive, we must build affordable housing in our villages and small towns, and create working opportunities also.

Let me know what you think about second homes in Shropshire’s town and villages using the comment box below.

A longer version of this article has been published on

The Shropshire data

[1] The 2011 census revealed that 10,299 adults have second homes in Shropshire, but this is the number of people not residences. Of these, 1,300 declared their homes to be holiday homes, and 1,881 say their homes are for working. However, 7,048 say their second home is for ‘other purposes’ – whatever they might be. Many will in fact be holiday homes that people do not wish declare for whatever reason. But perhaps people don’t think of them as holiday homes, it is just that they live in two places at once.

[2] While talking data, it’s worth noting that 6,501 Shropshire adults have second homes outside the county: 1,181 of these are declared to be holiday homes, 1,584 for working and 3,736 for ‘other’ purposes.

[3] Second home owners can’t normally vote twice in an election, i.e. at their main and holiday residence. But two votes are sometimes permitted when a person shares their time equally between residences.

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