Whitby votes to limit sales of second homes – The Guardian

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Whitby votes to limit sales of second homes

Move to restrict sales of new-build properties is not legally binding but organisers hope to influence planning decisions

Whitby has become the latest tourist hotspot to vote for a limit on the sale of second homes as residents sounded a “very loud message that enough is enough”.

Families in the Yorkshire fishing port said they had been priced out of the housing market as wealthy incomers paid exorbitant prices for holiday boltholes.

The medieval town, made famous by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, experienced the second highest house price increase of any coastal resort last year, rising 17% – beaten only by Padstow in Cornwall. About 28% of properties in Whitby are second homes.

In a poll of the town’s residents on Monday, 93% voted to restrict the sale of new-build and additional housing to full-time residents.

The ballot, which had a turnout of 23%, is not legally binding but organisers hope it will influence planning decisions by Whitby town council and Scarborough borough council.

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

In Cornwall, the honeypot areas of St Ives, Fowey and Mevagissey have voted to limit sales of new builds to full-time residents.

The Welsh government recently increased the maximum level of council tax on second homes from 100-300% over concerns that places such as Anglesey and Gwynedd, home to the stunning Llŷn peninsula, were being overrun with holiday lets.

Whitby Community Network, the organiser of the poll, said it hoped the results would send a clear message that “change is needed”.

A spokesperson said: “The poll results clearly demonstrate the strength of feeling in the local community … We trust that our elected councillors will take note and take action.”

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The average house price in Whitby is now more than £254,218, according to the property website Rightmove – putting it far beyond the reach of many in a town where the typical salary is just £18,900.

A local estate agent said about 75% of properties on its books were sold as second homes or to investors. Nineteen of 20 new houses in one recent development were sold as holiday lets, according to the Conservative borough councillor Phil Trumper.

Joyce Stangoe, who was born in Whitby and returned to the town to retire after moving away for work, said its future was in peril unless politicians took notice.

“There’s nowhere to rent. There’s nowhere to buy. For people trying to get on the housing ladder, it’s virtually impossible,” she said.

“The biggest problem we’ve got in Whitby is the lack of kids. Our schools are virtually empty. If we don’t do something we’re going have no next generation to supply the workforce – we’re already struggling to get the workforce here.”

Stangoe, the secretary of the Whitby Community Network, compared the anger over second homes to the resentment that led many rural and coastal areas to vote for Brexit.

Of the 2,268 votes cast in Whitby’s referendum, an overwhelming 2,111 supported limits on second homes. The Covid pandemic has exacerbated the housing crisis in coastal communities as thousands of people fled the cities in a “race for space”.

Generation Rent, the housing campaign group, found that 3,000 new holiday and second homes were registered in south-west England during the pandemic, while nearly 1,700 appeared in Wales.

In Cornwall, where 80% of properties in some villages are holiday lets or second homes, campaigners have resorted to direct action by painting graffiti on empty properties. The group First Homes Not Second Homes has been holding monthly marches since September.

Sandra Turner, who has lived in Whitby since she was a child, said residents wanted to send “a very loud message that enough is enough”.

She said: “It’s not that we’re against tourism, we’re not, but we don’t want to give up our town either. We need to be able to live here, we need to be able to work here, families want their families to stay here and not move away and that is what’s happening. People are having to move out of the town to enable themselves to live and own a home.”

A spokesperson 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.”

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