Keswick cafe owner's £825k buyout campaign to save building from holiday let threat

A cafe owner in Keswick is trying to raise more than £800,000 to buy the building she rents, in order to prevent it from being turned into holiday lets.

Chinty Turnbull has run Chinty's cafe in the town since 2020. She recently learned that the landlord wants to sell the building that people also live in.

Determined to stop this from happening, Chinty started the Buy Back Keswick campaign. It has already raised more than £65,000.

She said: "People seem to really care about it. A lot of locals come in and they know everybody and everything in here is made locally and a lot of people feel stressed about the housing disappearing.

"People have given me money because their children are struggling to find places to live. The town needs to be serviced.

"People need to serve coffees and clean holiday cottages but there's nowhere for them to live.

Locals in Keswick and across the Lake District say they have seen more and more properties turning into holiday lets since the start of the pandemic.

There are concerns that many sit empty for much of the year and that young people, in particular, are being priced out of the housing market.

Chinty's cafe, in Keswick town centre Credit: ITV Border

One man told ITV Border that 'there's nothing for young people any more in Keswick. It's just not right.'

The government announced plans in the Queen's Speech to allow local authorities to double council tax bills on second homes.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron believes more action is needed.

He said: "Planning laws mean that we can't formally stop somebody turning a thriving business or indeed family accommodation into holiday accommodation and we should be able to do that.

"Local communities should be able to control the level of second home ownership and holiday lets in their community, because without a vibrant local community, what is there to visit?"

Back in Keswick, Chinty agrees that more can be done, but is optimistic about the difference she and others can make.

She said: "Normal people like us can actually get together and do something about it.

"We started this little business to show people that they can be plastic free and ethical and sustainable, it doesn't have to be corporate it doesn't have to be slick, it can be very small-scale.

"We've inspired people to buy less plastic and to do more sustainable things so we want to inspire people to do this as well. They can actually own part of their town, it's not impossible."

It is one small effort to keep the door open in Keswick for tourists and locals alike.