Duchy Rent And Leases In Scilly Discussed In The Lords

Lord Berkeley in the House of Lords

Lord Berkeley in the House of Lords

Problems with buying leases and the high rents charged by the Duchy of Cornwall in Scilly have been discussed in the House of Lords.

The issues were raised by Lord Berkeley during the second reading of his Private Members’ Bill last Friday, which is seeking to clarify the rights of the Duchy.

He told the Lords about Garrison resident Alan Davis, who’s been fighting the Duchy for several years.

He’s trying to buy the freehold on his property, something that would normally be legal under the Leasehold Reform Act.

But the Duchy says this legislation doesn’t apply to them.

Alan has a court case, which is due to be heard before magistrates in Truro this December.

Lord Berkeley is concerned that some of the documentation relating to Alan’s’ case has been lost by the government departments it was sent to.

He says he doesn’t know whether that’s a conspiracy or just incompetence.

The high rents charged by the Duchy also featured in Lord Berkeley’s speech.

He quoted Richard McCarthy, who is head of the Tenant’s Association in Scilly, who said that Duchy rents in 2012 averaged £130 a week, compared to £70 charged by the Council and £100 by housing associations.

Those rents are hard for tenants here to afford, he said, given that the average weekly wage in the islands is just £277.

The peer believes the Duchy isn’t accountable, choosing when to class itself as a private company, or a public body, “as it suits them.”

And he says with a Local Authority or housing association, tenants have established procedures for making complaints.

Here, it’s left to the whim of Duchy and many people feel they mustn’t say anything bad about them, says Lord Berkeley.

The bill will now move to the committee stage, where any amendments can be debated. It will then need to come back to the Lords before heading over to the House of Commons.

However, Lord Berkeley doesn’t hold much luck for it succeeding there. He says the Tories have been blocking all Private Members’ Bills for the past two years.

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