Monday 28 March 2016 4:12 pm

UK house prices: St Ives in Cornwall is having a referendum on banning second homes

There's an important referendum happening this summer. No, not that one. 

For the residents of the sunny seaside town of St Ives, as well as voting in the EU referendum, they will vote on something a little closer to home – whether to ban people who are not local to the area from owning property as a second home, many of whom leave them empty for a large part of the year and price out local buyers in the process.

The coastal Cornish spot, where the average house price is above the quarter of a million pounds mark and one in four properties belongs to an "outsider", will cast their ballot on 5 May.

The new rules will govern the building of second homes in the area and are part of a new Neighbourhood Development Plan. It will have a principle residence requirement for new homes with proof having to be provided that it will be a main residence.

"Although there is much more to the plan, inevitably the main talking point is likely to be the part of the plan that states that new open market housing will only be supported where there is a restriction to ensure that it is used as a main home and not used as a holiday or second home," said Cornwall council's planning portfolio director Edwina Hannaford, speaking to the Cornishman.

"We recognise that in including this stipulation, the St Ives Area Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group felt that the impact upon the local housing market of the continued uncontrolled growth of housing used as second or holiday homes was unsustainable. "  

One developer had indicated to the council that it  would challenge the plan under human rights law and while it had originally been intended for a vote to take place last year, the proposals had been met with criticism from housing minister Brandon Lewis.

Since then, resident of two other Cornish areas, Roseland peninsula and Quethiock near Liskeard have voted in favour of local Neighbourhood Development plans, one of which includes rules on building second homes.

After amendments were made to the St Ives plan, it has been given the go ahead for a local vote by Cornwall Council, and that could leave some homeowners eyeing up a holiday home on the Cornish coast locked out if locals vote in favour.