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We stand by ‘don’t infect us’ banner – it wasn’t aimed just at second home owners

PUBLISHED: 11:30 05 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:51 05 June 2020

Southwold town councillors Simon Flunder and David Beavan with the banner which was temporarily put up at the start of the pandemic  Picture: JO FLUNDER

Southwold town councillors Simon Flunder and David Beavan with the banner which was temporarily put up at the start of the pandemic Picture: JO FLUNDER

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Is criticism of second home owners fair? This week, second home owner David Shea said in the EADT that negativity aimed at them during the coronavirus pandemic had been ‘disproportionate’. Today, Southwold town councillor David Beavan gives his view.

Southwold beach Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSouthwold beach Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Second home owner David Shea’s article in the EADT was wrong on many fronts, in my view.

He wrote that the “tiny percentage” of second home owners would not make a difference if they came [during the Covid-19 pandemic]. I think I would rather take the word of an epidemiologist on that.

Our population in Southwold more than doubles in the summer. Our local health centre would not have been able to cope, and our nearest hospital is an hour away, in all directions.

Back in March, people were genuinely worried that visitors would rush from the London hotspot and spread the virus.

A sign was also placed on the A12 leading into Southwold early on during the lockdown, encouraging visitors to stay away Picture: DAVID BEAVANA sign was also placed on the A12 leading into Southwold early on during the lockdown, encouraging visitors to stay away Picture: DAVID BEAVAN

Coaches were also still unloading day trippers at the pier every day. The government, belatedly in my opinion, issued the advice about non-essential travel. That is why we printed the banner – because we knew this message had to get out and quickly. [The banner read: ‘A day at the seaside or a week in your holiday home are NOT essential travel. Please respect us. Don’t infect us.’]

The banner is clearly addressed to all visitors. We needed something that would capture the press’ imagination so it had to be plain spoken. If we had not got such good regional coverage, it would have been pointless. We were aiming it at people thinking of breaking the guidelines and coming here. Thankfully the regional press did their bit. Thank you East Anglian. As soon as we got the coverage, the banners were removed.

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It did not say, “second homers don’t infect us”. Mr Shea misquotes the banner to suit his argument.

Our banner was quite clearly aimed at all visitors who were thinking of disobeying the government guidelines, not at law abiding second home owners. The banner may have been misread by some second home owners. I am sorry if their feelings were hurt. That was not our intention. But if their hurt feelings saved one life, it would surely have been worth it.

He then goes on to say that second home owners are vital to Southwold. Visitors are of course essential to our economy, and many play a part on our community.

But we feel that we have too many at 60% now, and eventually they will kill the golden goose if all houses are holiday homes.

We also are fed up with some second home owners who leave their houses empty and use a loophole to escape rates and tax.

We will be checking the list of Covid £10k business grants paid out by East Suffolk Council to make sure that the claimants are genuine holiday let businesses.

As to the complaint that the local council is not doing enough for second home owners, that is a bit rich when 250 pay no council tax or rates.

Why should people with no home subsidise people with two homes? Local council funding has been cut by 60% under the Conservative Government. Our council has worked valiantly through this emergency.

Finally, we welcome the second homers who pay their dues, care for our community and bring us business. I have even questioned whether it now makes any difference if they stay overnight, because we have overtaken London’s rate of infection.


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