Whitby turns tide on second-home owners

The people of Whitby have voted overwhelmingly to limit the sale of second homes in the Yorkshire seaside town, making it the latest tourist hotspot to turn the tide on holidaymakers pricing out local people.

Tom Ball www.thetimes.co.uk 

A parish poll held on Monday night asked locals if they wanted new [homes] to be reserved for locals, to which 93 per cent voted in favour.

Of the 2,228 ballots cast, 157 voted against and 18 ballots were rejected.

One in five properties in the town where Bram Stoker’s Dracula is set, are second homes or holiday lets, according to Scarborough borough council.

That proportion has more than doubled in the past two decades.

People say that the rise in second-home ownership has meant that locals cannot afford to buy in their home town.

Last year house prices rose by 17 per cent and the average asking price is £254,218, according to Rightmove.

This is the second highest price increase of any coastal town, beaten only by Padstow in Cornwall where they jumped 20 per cent.

Anthony George, 25, said that the vote was an expression of “pent-up frustration” against a situation that had led to many young people having to leave Whitby.

“If you want to buy a house these days in Whitby, on a Whitby salary, good luck to you,” said George, an apprentice chef. The average salary in the town is £18,900.

“As it stands, I’m going to have to rent for the rest of my life if I want to stay, or move 20 miles inland.”

Whitby attracts more than 150,000 visitors each year, many of whom come to visit the ruins of the Benedictine abbey above the town.

The poll is the latest sign of unrest in tourist hotspots as local families struggle to match the prices paid by those wanting second homes by the sea.

Residents of St Ives, Fowey and Mevagissey – all in Cornwall – have previously voted to limit sales of new builds to permanent residents.

Last week Tim Farron, MP for South Lakes, urged the government to consider giving local authorities the power to limit second home ownership.

During a debate in parliament on the Levelling Up Bill, Farron said that excessive second home ownership had led to the prospect of buying or even renting a house becoming a “pipe dream” for people in rural areas such as his constituency in Cumbria.

The Whitby poll, which had a turnout of 24 per cent, is not legally binding but organisers hope it will influence planning decisions.

Linda Wild, the mayor of Whitby, called on the borough council and the government to amend planning regulations to make it possible to protect local housing for primary residence.

“We need a ‘use class’ which applies to holiday lets,” she said. “Then the planners can manage that change of use. We also need to tax second homes and holiday homes more effectively through council tax and business rates to reflect the impact they have on local people.

“Whitby is not unique in this predicament and local people want their voice heard by government alongside people from Cornwall, North Norfolk, Northumberland and the Lakes. We absolutely need government to give local people the power to keep holiday resort communities sustainable.”

A spokesman for Scarborough borough council said: “The outcome of the poll is no more and no less than an expression of the views of the electorate of the parish who have voted in the poll and is not binding on any organisation.”