Anyone for seconds?

That quiet little cottage in the country may not be as far away as you think
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The Independent Online

Many people buy second homes to escape the stress of the city for an idyllic country cottage at weekends or holidays. Some may think of moving to their second home permanently when they retire. But there are a few developments where the properties can only be bought as a second, not primary, home.

Many people buy second homes to escape the stress of the city for an idyllic country cottage at weekends or holidays. Some may think of moving to their second home permanently when they retire. But there are a few developments where the properties can only be bought as a second, not primary, home.

In some cases, the owners are not allowed to register with a local dentist or doctor, nor must they be on the electoral register. And they need to be able to prove their primary home is elsewhere, in the UK or abroad.

At Lower Mill Estate, Somerford Keynes on the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire border, around 300 homes are being built on a pretty 450-acre site. But these homes can be occupied only for the maximum of 11 months of the year and cannot be occupied from 6 January till 6 February. "The planning restriction is to ensure people do not live there as their primary residence," says Rowena Halstead of Knight Frank, which is selling the homes.

"It is an idyllic estate, on the site of disused gravel pits and in the centre of one of the Cotswold's important nature conservation areas. The area could not sustain the traffic if they were sold as first-time buyer homes and there is already heavy commitment to the local schools."

There are seven lakes and two Sites of Special Scientific Interest on the estate, which has an array of wildlife including badgers, otters, deer and owls, and the developer has worked hard with local conservation groups to achieve a balance between development and conservation.

"This development is in a location where residential development would not normally be allowed" says Marcus Kitchen, principal planning officer of Cotswold District Council. "At the same time as the council wishing to preserve the natural habitat, we also have district and local policies to promote the water park as a holiday destination and tourist attraction, so a balance has to be struck. Giving permission for holiday homes only is a good compromise."

The one-month bar not only helps control occupation, it promotes nature conservation. The area is important to over-wintering wild fowl and many arrive in January.

The properties are being built in Cotswold materials with stone walls and slate roofs and will be positioned in small clumps around the lakes and woodland.

Galen and Michele Rosenberg have bought Rose Cottage, an end-of-terrace three-bedroom home there. "We have bought it as somewhere to escape to," says Mr Rosenberg. "We live in west London, where I run a very busy pharmacy and clinic, so we were looking for a bit of peace in the countryside. It doesn't worry me at all that we cannot be there in January and I quite understand the planners are concerned about outsiders buying houses which should go to locals. This development protects that and might offer a bit of extra employment."

With two young boys, the Rosenbergs also liked the security of the estate. All owners will have the use of a swimming pool and tennis court and will be able to sail and fish on the lakes. But these amenities do not come free. "That is one drawback," says Mr Rosenberg. "We have to pay £1,000 ground rent, which rises in line with inflation and a £700 service charge. But we would never have found a property in the Cotswolds with a swimming pool and tennis court for the same price."

Eight of the first 17 houses have sold and the remaining two- and three-bedroom homes in this phase are on the market for £95,000 to £160,000.

Watermark Resorts, a company which no longer exists, built three leisure resorts in the early Nineties in Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire where houses could be bought only as second homes.

Allan McLundie, general manager at Overstone Park, near Daventry, Northamptonshire says: "The district council did not want to grant planning permission for a residential site but were prepared to permit a recreational site, based on a golf course with wooden lodges which wouldn't represent principal homes. People do not have to vacate their homes at any time, as long as they are resident only part of the year." There is also a health and fitness centre, swimming pool, restaurant and conference facilities. Three-bedroom lodges are available, ranging from a lakeside lodge at £135,000 to smaller ones at £95,000.

Within the Harleyford Estate, a beautiful wooded estate on the banks of the river Thames, near Marlow, Buckinghamshire, 70 homes have been built among the trees. But owners are not allowed to sleep in their homes during February. "They can gain entry during the day, but not over night," says Brett Rivett of agents, Milsom & Partners. "The restrictions have not been a problem because there is enough interest in the market for genuine second homes, especially with the Thames so close and with the golf course."

To get into the site, you have to pass a security gate, manned 24 hours a day, and owners have to hand in their keys when they leave. "The majority are British," says Mr Rivett. "We also have South Africans, Germans and Americans, who use the property during the summer and probably return to homes in Florida or Spain for winter. People come here for a different way of life."

All the homes are built on the lines of Norwegian log chalets and more are to be built shortly. The agents have several re-sales, from a two-bedroom, single-storey home for £230,000 to a two-bedroom, two-storey lodge for £252,000.

 

Knight Frank, 01865 790088; Overstone Park, 01604 647666; Milsom & Partners, 01628 890707

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