Porthleven, like so many coastal towns and villages in Cornwall, appears to be the ultimate place to live.

It’s so pretty it could make an excitable Instagram influencer choke on their masala chai latte. It’s by the sea, is far removed from the homogeneous feel of city life – you only have to visit the raft of independent homegrown businesses to realise that, and the place has a laidback, welcoming atmosphere due to the surf and drinking culture.

In fact, the locals joke it’s a “drinking village with a fishing problem” and it definitely has that special sense of Cornish bonhomie.

The trouble is there’s nowhere to actually live. It’s the Cornish housing crisis in microcosm.

Specifically, there’s nowhere to rent. Just go and have a look online. Zilch. When something does come up it’s for ridiculous money – a one-bedroom property was recently advertised for £900 a month.

Young people in the harbour town (or village – it depends on who you speak to) can no longer afford to live here. According to people in heavenly ‘leven, the housing situation has left the town “hollowed out”, “knackered” or, quite simply, “f***ed”.

There’s a whole generation here still living with their parents well into their 20s - and beyond. Or they’re having to move away to such alien territories as Helston or Camborne.

The future of Porthleven appears to be a loss of Cornish accents and a growth of key safes on empty cottages.

This is why people want to live in Porthleven (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

This is why people want to live in Porthleven (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

The common mantra seems to unfairly blame a lot of this on greedy landlords who are eager to make a buck thanks to the lucrative holiday letting market and the ease of the unregulated rise of Airbnb. Sure, there will be some of that and who can blame people – we all need to make a living.

However, there’s another reason – the Government’s energy performance certificate (EPC). Fine on new builds, but this is Cornwall. Try getting a rentable rating on an 18th century fishing cottage.

That’s why so many landlords are now heading for the holiday market where the EPC rating doesn’t need to be as high, and saves them the money of installing fire doors, double glazing, underfloor heating, wall insulation, etc, etc.

READ NEXT: ‘Ridiculous’ EPC energy rating is ‘destroying’ coastal communities

I paid a visit to Porthleven in Cornwall - a Cornish paradise with no housing.

There are currently around 100 families on Cornwall Council’s housing register waiting list. They could be waiting a long time as Porthleven is in the unusual position of pretty much reaching its capacity for construction.

Enjoying a beer with three of the town’s friendly movers and shakers outside the Ship Inn on a balmy afternoon with the sea as a backdrop, it’s evident why people want to live here... and why those brought up around the harbour don’t want to be forced to leave.

Mayor of Porthleven Mike Toy is also a carpenter who has worked on so many properties in the town. He said: “We’ve got a new build going in at the top of town in fields by Gibson Way. There are some shared ownership and some rented, but not a lot. The development’s not bad, but developers aren’t going to build something they’re not going to make a profit out of.”

Mayor of Porthleven Mike Toy (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

Mayor of Porthleven Mike Toy (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

The new estate is courtesy of Porthleven Robertson Developments Ltd, which is building 70 homes  on just over 3.5 hectares of land off Wellington Road. The development  includes a mix of open market and  21 (30 per cent) affordable units for rent and shared ownership.

Mike said if the local council had any land he’d make sure it was given to a community land trust to ensure homes are built for locals. “But unfortunately the town council hasn’t got any. This is the problem – particularly in Porthleven which is surrounded by the Penrose Estate on one side and Coodes Estates on the other side – there is nowhere left to build.”

About 25 per cent of the housing stock is “out of the loop” and taken up by Airbnbs, holiday lets and second homes. “That’s the ones we know about. Airbnbs are unregulated so there will be more.”

Another local carpenter Alec Short, who also happens to be chairman of the phenomenally popular Porthleven Food Festival, points out that the housing register need doesn’t include people who aren’t on any list and are also desperate for homes, which bumps up the waiting list even more.

Town councillor Rob Munday, who was born in Porthleven 48 years ago, has put his two step-kids, who are in the early 20s, on the waiting list, saying: “There’s no chance they’d be able to afford to move out.”

His family live in a social housing property on Trevisker Drive. “We’re really lucky, but it’s going to be really tough for my kids. People who are 20 or 21 are still living with their parents. Young people living here can’t afford to buy here - or rent.”

Alec chipped in: “It’s a coming of age thing when you’re 18 you want to leave home, live in shared housing; it’s part of growing up, but it’s impossible here.”

Alec Short is on a bit of a one-man mission to stop the impact of EPC ratings on housing stock in Porthleven (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

Alec Short is on a bit of a one-man mission to stop the impact of EPC ratings on housing stock in Porthleven (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

Mike’s daughter managed to find a house in Helston and his son lives in Carnkie, near Redruth – that was the closest they could get to Porthleven. “They would have loved to have stayed here.”

“Everyone’s spreading out because they’re being forced to move away,” added Rob.

Mike said: “It’s hollowing out the area – you’re losing all the people you need to keep the community going. Holidaymakers are a thing here, whether you like it or not, but you still need local people in the background doing stuff.”

The growth in tourism and second homes has undoubtedly impacted the town, as well as helped its economy; that familiar vicious, double-edged Cornish sword.

Rob told me: “You used to go down Thomas Street and you knew a load of people who lived down there, you’d call on your friends; those were the first houses people were able to afford to rent. They were £300 or £400 a month. People would rent, then put down a deposit on a house, then the next family would move in. There was a rotation. Whereas now they’re holiday lets.”

He says the sense of community is changing in the town. “You have people coming in who have been sold the Cornish life and that’s a different type of community spirit.”

“You haven’t got the native stock, as it were -wrinkly old b******s like me,” added Mike, with typical Cornish humour. “That sort of thing has been hollowed out, but it’s the same with old coastal towns and villages – St Agnes, Mousehole, Newlyn…”

Porthleven town councillor Rob Munday (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

Porthleven town councillor Rob Munday (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

Alec stresses many of these coastal towns and villages don’t have mains gas, which is reflected in poor energy ratings on properties, which are in turn converted into holiday lets rather than housing for locals.

He’s on a bit of a one-man mission to have a fairer EPC rating for Cornwall after seeing firsthand the damage it is doing: “You would achieve a balance if the EPC applied to holiday lets as well. It’s just not been designed for Cornish coastal communities.”

Mike, who is standing as an Independent candidate at next year’s Cornwall Council elections, said: “The problem is you can’t build too much otherwise you turn Cornwall into a super duper tarmacked area. Guilty as charged – that’s what I do for a living. It’s got to be a fine line where you draw this.”

He referred to a new build down the road near Rosudgeon: “It’s like a middle class ghetto going in there – that’s not first time buyers’ stuff. The same with the housing on the cliffs at St Agnes. People from the Home Counties just buy them over the phone without ever looking at them. Do you want to turn Cornwall into a dormitory county for people from further up the country?”

Alec believes another cause of the housing problem is the drive for net zero: “It’s greenwashing. Who doesn’t want to preserve the planet? But it’s ill thought out and is affecting the poorest people in society. The climate change message is drummed into Generation Z and they’re made to feel very uncomfortable if they say anything against it.”

A member of that generation who perfectly illustrates the crisis in Porthleven is the fittingly named Caitlyn Port, 22, who works at the Ship Inn. “I’ve struggled,” she told me. “I’m in a very lucky position at the moment as my boyfriend and I live in a flat owned by his mum. However, we were looking for two years before that.”

Caitlyn Port is just one example of Porthlevens younger generation who have struggled to stay in the town (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

Caitlyn Port is just one example of Porthleven's younger generation who have struggled to stay in the town (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

With both working in the pub trade, their combined wage isn’t huge: “It’s very hard to save money – we’re literally living from pay cheque to pay cheque. Even our flat now is quite expensive and it’s only one-bedroom. It was the only way we could move out of a shed in his mum’s back garden.

“All the housing in Porthleven I looked at was £900-plus a month, even for little two-bed cottages. It’s awful, it’s insane. The amount of people who come here and say ‘you’re so lucky to live here’ – I am and I love the people who come on holiday here, but I’m like ‘I can’t afford to live here because of you’,” she added, laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation.

“Loads and loads of my friends still live with their parents because they can’t afford to live anywhere else. A lot of people who rent their houses out don’t want young people sharing, which I sort of understand but it makes it more difficult.”

A walk around the harbour from the Ship takes you to the Mussel Shoal seafood café, run by well-known ‘leven character Kelvin Batt, who employs a lot of the town’s youngsters.

Porthlevens Kelvin Batt and Alec Short (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

Porthleven's Kelvin Batt and Alec Short (Pic: Lee Trewhela / LDRS)

“Our main concern when we’re employing people is where they will live. I’ve put people up in the campsite before at the top of town, but that’s not ideal. Go on Rightmove or Zoopla – there is not one place to rent. Fine if there’s a place to rent, I could put a handful of staff in there, but there isn’t anything. It’s shocking.”

Some of his staff have been forced to find accommodation in neighbouring Helston and walk the 2.5 miles to work. “Porthleven’s knackered. It’s really unbalanced. I don’t know what the solution is,” he added.

“The solution is making it attractive to the landlord to rent it out versus a holiday let,” says his mate Alec. “Currently, it’s so much easier to flip it into a holiday let than it is to put an air source heat pump in. These places haven’t got cavities for insulation, you can’t put a double glazing window in a 200-year-old property and we haven’t got any gas.

“The system makes it favourable to turn it into a holiday let when it doesn’t need to be – the demand is there. The national guidance is driving Cornwall Council to deploy a policy that just doesn’t work here.”

Victoria Nance also works at the Mussel Shoal. She’s 55 and has her own housing issues in the town. “I work with a lot of young people who want to move out but can’t afford it. I’m almost two generations up from that age group but I don’t know how to advise them with anything positive, apart from the shared ownership option which my eldest daughter is thinking about doing."

She wants to stay in Porthleven though, which makes it harder to find a place.

“Cornwall has ****ed itself now – I say to the next generation they have to get over it because they won’t ever be able to buy that little two-bedroom cottage down the road with a small garden.”