Council plans to outlaw new second homes

CAROLINE CULOT Building weekend retreats for wealthy second-homeowners is set to be outlawed in parts of East Anglia amid growing concern that young families are being priced-out of village life.

CAROLINE CULOT

Building weekend retreats for wealthy second-homeowners is set to be outlawed in parts of East Anglia amid growing concern that young families are being priced-out of village life.

The EDP has learned that one Norfolk council is planning to follow the example of the Yorkshire Dales and ban the building of new second homes in sought-after market towns and villages.

Council leaders across the region last night said they will watch the move by King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council with interest.

But estate agents warned that the plan could damage the property market and risked pushing up the price of older houses available to second-homeowners even higher.

The plan comes as concerns grow about the widening gap between wages in rural areas and property prices.

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A government-backed commission reported earlier this year that the average property price in some villages on the “Gold Coast” from Hunstanton to Holt - and including towns like Burnham Market - was now 10 times the average salary.

John Dobson, leader of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council - who also represents Brancaster where 40pc of homes are owned as weekend retreats - warned that second-homeownership undermined village schools or shops.

Mr Dobson said: “What we are trying to do is to discourage second home ownership.

“It is not being unfair because a free market will still operate and there will still be properties for sale in villages as second homes but the long term effect, we hope, will be to reduce the amount of second homes.”

He added: “We recognise that second home ownership stimulates the local economy but there is a balance to be struck - we feel the balance is too much in favour of the second home owner.”

Under the council's plan - which is currently open to public consultation - building new houses for sale as second homes would be banned in areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) where more than one in four properties is already a weekend retreat or holiday home.

The ban would also apply in areas without AONB status but where one in three properties are already second homes.

Planning permission in property hotspots would only be granted for new homes available to “local” people who have been resident in a parish for at least five years or who have a current link to the local community, or those with an essential need arising from age or infirmity.

But Andrew Wagstaff, a partner with Bedfords, which has an office in Burnham Market, said: “It would be counterproductive by creating two markets, one for the properties without the restriction and another for those which do.

“What it would do is to push up the prices of the properties second home owners can buy even higher so the council is really shooting itself in the foot.

“Also not that many second homes are actually new builds. It's more an issue of providing affordable housing - to build more homes for local people.”

Margaret Craske, cabinet member for strategic housing at North Norfolk district council, said the authority was not considering a similar ban, put had forward its own plans for all new homes to be affordable with the exception of around 14 growth villages, and towns.

Even there developers would have to make sure that 40pc of developments were set aside for affordable homes.

“We think that will have a huge impact,” she said. “Personally I think the second homes market is stretched.”

Bruce Provan, executive member for housing at Waveney District Council, said there were no plans to introduce a ban.

“It's not something that we have started discussing,” he said. “If it were to be looked at, it would be in Southwold where a third of properties are second homes and it has a knock on effect on the local economy.”