Re your editorial on second homes (21 June), there are useful models in European countries for the regulation of housing in rural and seaside communities. In Denmark (population around 5.5 million), there are around 200,000 summer houses. These cannot be used as year-round residences or bought by non-Danes without permission from the government.
This means that on a popular holiday island like Bornholm, local people can still afford homes because they live in houses classified as permanent residences, while Copenhageners, for instance, buy sensitively constructed holiday houses in peaceful wooded compounds that are controlled by strict planning laws. As they are generally attractive and well-built, there is no snobbery about them, in the way that there is in the UK, where purpose-built holiday accommodation is often in the form of static caravans, for instance, leading to wealthy incomers outpaying locals for picturesque houses in coastal villages.
We could emulate this in Britain, if only governments would control the rogue development industry, improve the standard of housing being built, with well-resourced local planning departments filled with passionate advocates for quality and sustainability, answerable to the local community, and reform home ownership laws to introduce a similar dual classification. The Tories’ new planning proposals would, of course, do the opposite.
• Polly Toynbee quotes Prof Danny Dorling as saying that “London has more bedrooms than people, even if no one shared a bedroom” (There are solutions to the housing crisis, but none of them are Tory, 21 June). That fact ties in with what my father told me about how London’s housing shortage was addressed during the second world war. He served as an ambulance driver and said that if a property was left empty for more than a couple of weeks, people could alert the local authority, which would put a notice on the door. The notice stated that if the property continued to be empty, the council would requisition it for a family made homeless as a result of bombing. With thousands of empty properties in London, that same radical approach could empower local authorities to be able to offer decent housing to homeless families and children today.
• Polly Toynbee quotes Prof Danny Dorling as saying: “Governments fall if prices fall.” Given this, which would apply to a Labour government nearly as much as to a Tory one, her creative solutions have no chance of being adopted. It is probably not a coincidence that policy statements by Labour politicians never mention housing, even though our poor housing system is probably one of the most potent sources of misery to the families who one would expect to vote Labour. Real housing reform would take political courage, which they clearly don’t possess.
• On behalf of planning committee members from across the country, can I thank Polly Toynbee for summing up, in a few hundred words, the absurdities and contradictions that hundreds of district council planning authorities face very month, living as we do with Eric Pickles’ legacy – let alone what is to come, which is even worse.
Labour, Cherwell district council