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Garrison resident urges action on Duchy leases

A St Mary’s resident has urged other islanders to respond to a consultation affecting Duchy leaseholders on the Garrison and off-islands.

Alan Davis has been trying to extend his Duchy of Cornwall lease for many years and believes the system should be abolished.

He said: "The leasehold system is a feudal system dating from medieval times. There have been reforms, starting in 1967 and the last one in 2002, and each time it’s got easier. It’s raised its head again that this feudal system has to be abolished and there has been a national campaign to do that. The campaign has succeeded in involving government and there are 154 MPs in an All-Party Parliamentary Group on it."

The Law Commission has now launched a consultation paper titled 'Leasehold home ownership: buying your freehold or extending your lease', which closes on January 7th. A recommendation will then go to Parliament for debate later this year, with the possibility of new legislation to follow.

Alan said: "There are two surveys that particularly affect the off-island and Garrison leaseholders. The first one is very simple, you fill that in to tell them about your lease. The second one is unfortunately much longer, it runs to 135 questions, some of them very technical, specialised and [that] don’t really affect us."

The National Leasehold Campaign, which gives guidance on how to answer the questions, writes on its website: "We appreciate the consultation is very complicated, long and written using terminology many people do not understand. Please don’t be put off by this. It’s PARAMOUNT as many people as possible complete this consultation. YOU DON’T HAVE TO ANSWER ALL OF THE QUESTIONS. ONE IS BETTER THAN NONE.”

Alan emphasised the importance to Scilly of Question 65, which reads: 'We would like to hear from any consultees who have made lease extension or freehold acquisition claims against the Crown (whether pursuant to the Crown’s undertaking to Parliament or its voluntary policy). What has been your experience? Have you encountered any difficulties?'

He said: "The Duchy of Cornwall described themselves as a private estate. However, a private estate cannot have an exemption so they describe themselves as the Crown. In the legislation that was published in the past, the Crown were exempt and they agreed to abide by it but then the Duchy requested exemptions and one of the exemptions was the Garrison and the off-islands on Scilly.

"It is imperative that the leaseholders answer Question 65 of the consultation, otherwise the Duchy will likely have its exemption renewed. The other questions cover issues that will be picked up by many many people but the question of the crown will be picked up by relatively few - by people in Newton St Loe, central Dartmoor, here, a few in London. Its scope is very small so if we don’t speak up we will be ignored."

Alan added that he is hopeful the consultation will have the desired result. "The outcome we’re looking for is that you’ll be able to purchase the freehold or if you do not wish to purchase the freehold, you will be able to extend your lease. Currently if you want to extend it, you have to pay your costs and the other side’s costs and this can be very, very expensive and the length of leases that are being granted are really of no value.

"Some of them I know have been rounded up to 50 years but if you’ve only got 5,6,7 years left on your lease that 50 years is actually of little value. People will not lend money against it and the ground rents associated with that lease are now considered in many cases to be onerous."

The National Leasehold Campaign provides information and guidance on the consultation on its website and Facebook page.

View and download the Law Commission consultation papers here.

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