Many second homes in Bury have been changed to holiday lets since the start of the pandemic.

New figures from the government’s Valuation Office Agency, provided by property experts Altus Group, has revealed there were 18 holiday lets in Bury trading as businesses at the end of May, 14 more than in mid-March 2020, before the Coronavirus outbreak.

The figures cover second homes which are registered as commercial premises which must be made available for at least 140 days a year but doesn’t include other second homes used for private holiday lets.

The pandemic has led to a boom in "staycationing" and is why there has been a big rise in the number of holiday homes in the UK with prices for holiday accommodation rocketing in typical tourist hotspots.

Many have seeked to capitalise on this by converting their second homes into holiday lets.

Across England and Wales, nearly 20,000 new homes have been newly registered as holiday lets over the course of the pandemic – bringing the total to 83,342 nationally.

Altus Group says the national rise may be due to people "flipping" their second homes and converting them into holiday lets to avoid paying council tax.

Owners of holiday lets in England can claim 100 per cent business rates relief if the property has a rateable value of up to £12,000 and will also not have to pay council tax.

They do not need to prove the property has actually been let out to claim the tax break.

The government announced in January that it was clamping down on the holiday let tax loophole and second homeowners will have to prove their properties are rented out for a minimum of 70 days a year to access small business rates relief.

The rise of holiday lets has been a controversial topic for many years as rural and coastal residents suffer from increasing rent and many other problems because of the rise in tourists.

Generation Rent, a charity that campaigns for fair housing, said there were “countless” stories of tenants being evicted to make way for a holiday let.

The charity's deputy director, Dan Wilson Craw, said: “The popularity of domestic holidays last year, combined with the lack of regulation and tax advantages, has fuelled the appetite for holiday homes and deprived renters of places to live.

“Taking homes out of the residential market prices out people who want to settle down in the place they grew up.

"That destroys communities and starves local businesses of workers."

Records from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities from September 2021 show there were 238 properties registered as second homes for council tax purposes in Bury.

Secretary of state for levelling up Michael Gove said the government wanted to encourage “responsible” short-term letting.

He said: “We will not stand by and allow people in privileged positions to abuse the system by unfairly claiming tax relief and leaving local people counting the cost.

“The action we are taking will create a fairer system, ensuring that second homeowners are contributing their share to the local services they benefit from.”