Council admits ignorance over true scale of Falmouth covenant scandal
Cornwall Council ’s cabinet have admitted that they have no idea how many former Falmouth council houses sold under covenant have been lost to student accommodation.
The issue of ignored covenants, which are legally binding promises intended to restrict the future use of land, was exposed in last week’s Packet .
Documents seen by the Packet have confirmed that Cornwall Council has sold at least some of its council housing stock under covenant designed to prevent it from being “used for student or holiday letting purposes."
At yesterday’s meeting of the unitary authority Cornwall councillor David Saunby, who represents the Trescobeas ward in Falmouth, quizzed cabinet member Mark Kaczmarek on the scandal.
He asked: “What action will Cornwall Council be taking to enforce the restrictive covenants that apply to certain ex-council houses that prevents them from being used for student and holiday letting purposes?”
Mr Kaczmarek, who is the portfolio holder for housing and planning, opened by saying he was opposed to the sale of any council houses.
He added: “Each matter will need to be dealt with on its own merits as it is not straight forward due to a number of complicating factors.
“It will be necessary to hold a meeting between me, Cornwall Council’s housing team and legal to enable a definitive response to be made. I will then inform councillor Saunby and the council’s membership of the outcome.”
Mr Saunby followed-up by asking if “purchasers of council properties” had been made “fully aware of the covenants.” He also asked Mr Kaczmarek if he could tell him "how many ex-council properties in Falmouth alone have been converted to student houses since the arrival of the university at Tremough, Penryn?"
Mr Kaczmarek replied: “Well it's a straightforward no, I can't answer that - but I will look into finding out some answers.”
Three weeks have now passed since Falmouth town councillor Dr David Sterratt first raised the issue of ignored covenants in a letter to the leader of Cornwall Council, Alec Robertson, on August 15.