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Holiday lets investigated for flouting COVID-19 closure orders

Cornwall Council has worked to ensure that accommodation providers are shut to holidaymakers as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The overwhelming majority of holiday accommodation providers such as self- catering businesses, bed and breakfasts, caravan parks, hotels, campsites and holiday homes, closed their doors last month as a result of the Government ordering all non-essential businesses to stop operating and for everyone to stay at home and avoid unessential travel.

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But over the weekend the Council’s Public Protection team received around 200 reports from residents alleging that some holiday lets were still open to people visiting Cornwall.

After investigations the majority of premises contacted have now complied, including:

  • A number of Airbnb properties which were shut on Friday evening despite incorrect information on the booking platform’s website;
  • Two glamping sites;
  • Several premises which agreed to send guests home after being contacted
  • A campsite and other premises which have confirmed they are now closed;
  • A holiday cottages letting agency which has now ordered all guests to leave and cancelled upcoming bookings.

Officers are phoning businesses to investigate complaints, followed up with written warnings.

On-site visits are made when businesses fail to comply, or evidence is needed.

Last week the Council wrote to all holiday accommodation owners, letting agents and booking platforms in Cornwall to ask for their cooperation in complying with the closure orders.

There are a number of exemptions which allow some holiday accommodation businesses to remain open, for example to provide accommodation for key workers, NHS staff and for health and care use.

Rob Nolan, Cornwall Council’s portfolio holder for environment and public protection, said: “We have been following up all complaints over the weekend and continue to do so today to protect our communities and protect our NHS resources. Thank you to everyone who has contacted us about this matter.

“Some complaints will require further investigation over the coming days and some will also require physical visits to check and possibly to take action, but the vast majority of complaints received have revealed no non-compliance with the new laws to close certain businesses or the accommodation provider was happy to take our advice and close.

“We need everyone to stay at home so we can fight this health crisis together but our message to visitors is to please come back to Cornwall when all this is over.”

Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive of Visit Cornwall, said: “I pleased that almost all tourism accommodation providers are complying with the law, that said it is still very disappointing that some were found to be flouting the orders of the Government.

“I would like to thank Cllr Rob Nolan and the Cornwall Council staff for their investigations over the weekend and I would ask the public to keep vigilant and report any further properties that they suspect may be defying the law.

“I would also ask that people not jump to suspicions or make adverse comments online or in person to anyone they suspect, as many will still be operating to house key workers, health and care staff and the homeless – so please report, but do not jump to the wrong conclusion.”

Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “I am delighted that the proactive approach taken by Cornwall Council, which engaged businesses early in this issue, has had a significant effect, with the vast majority of accommodation providers complying with these regulations and some becoming part of the solution by providing temporary homes for critical workers and victims of crime.

“Unfortunately, there will always be a minority who do flout the regulations, both police and local authority partners need to be robust in dealing with them to ensure that we save lives and protect the NHS at this most vital time in our response to this crisis.”

Campsites and caravan parks are now closed but Council officers have also ordered people in campervans and caravans in Council car parks to leave.

Motorhomes, campers and vans parked on roads would fall under the remit of Devon and Cornwall Police.

Cornwall Council is requesting people reporting accommodation providers who may be breaking the law to give as much information as possible including a precise address, the name of the accommodation or owner and a telephone number or email address if known.

Please see our how to report a concern page

Story posted on 7 April, 2020