AROUND one in three properties in parts of Fowey and Lostwithiel are used as second homes, new figures have shown.
The figures released by Cornwall Council show that the parish of Lanteglos-by-Fowey has one of the highest number of second homes, with 30 per cent recorded.
Figures also showed that around one in six properties in Fowey were second homes.
Residents, business owners and councillors said they fear this puts more pressure upon town centre traders trying to make ends meet during the long winter months, particularly following the run of wetter than usual summers that have hit the UK in recent years.
Tony Cottrell has lived in Polruan for 25 years and paints a fairly bleak picture of what he fears could be a slow march towards a winter ghost town status for the popular destination.
He said: "I live in a street of 20 houses, only three of which are lived in full-time. The others are not derelict, just empty for the majority of the time. They are the second or in some cases, third homes of the owners.
Mr Cottrell considers this growth within Polruan of properties that are used as second homes or buy-to-let holiday homes is a frightening prospect when contemplating the future of the community there.
"When I came to live in Polruan, there were 12 shops," he said. "There are now two and each of those former shops is either a second home or rentable property.
"The church, the shops, the pubs and the school – as well as a source of viable, adequately paid work such as that provided by the boatyard, the ferries and the Harbour Commission are essential cornerstones for the place and if any were to die off, we would be further down the road towards being a ghost town in the winter and a tourist trap unable to service our visitors because of an absence of indigenous labour in the summer.
"The number of children in our excellent school is critical to whether we keep the teachers or indeed, whether the school closes and we have to bus the few left to Pelynt or elsewhere."
Mr Cotterill feels one way forward may be to raise the council tax charge for absentee owners and then put that money back into buying up empty properties to rent to local people, but he fears that it would take strict regulation to enforce what he believes may just be a fantasy.
December saw the doors close on Fowey's longstanding fish and chip shop, 'The Other Place', while recent years have seen Fowey town centre lose a number of stores including three greengrocers, two butchers and two convenience stores.
Karen Turpin's family have been trading in Fowey as Fowey Fish and Wines since 1983 and she said during that time they've seen a huge change and a loss of what she calls 'proper shops'.
"Now the trend here seems to be towards clothing outlets and national branded shops," said Mrs Turpin. "Independent stores seem to be on the decline."
"Chain stores can afford to make a trading loss here and offset it against their other better-performing stores in other towns. Independent stores cannot do this.
"A huge problem in Fowey and Polruan are the numbers of second homes which for a large majority of the year are unoccupied, second home-owners don't even seem to have the financial need to let their second homes when they are not in residence."
Last year Cornwall Council voted to do away with a 10 per cent council tax discount on second homes and Fowey's deputy mayor, Anne Boosey, said it might make a difference if some of the council tax was to come to the town as opposed to Cornwall Council.
She added: "I feel that there are far too many second homes in Fowey and very few owners have any great loyalty to the town."