Are parts of north Norfolk becoming Airbnb-next-the-Sea?
- Credit: Ian Burt
Parts of the Norfolk coast are fast becoming Airbnb-next-the-Sea amid the boom in second homes and holiday lets.
It comes as preliminary results from an EDP survey reveal 35pc of people are struggling to buy a property in the county while a similar percentage have been driven out of the community they grew up in by rising house prices.
Parts of north Norfolk now have the highest proportion of second homes and holiday lets outside of London. They include some 40pc of properties in Weybourne, near Sheringham.
Lyndon Swift, co-landlord of the Ship Inn on the main road through the village, is also chairman of Weybourne Parish Council and said the make-up of the village had changed completely.
"I've got lots of friends who are second-homers," he said. "We need them for tourism, we need them for income, but there has to be a balance.
"It's now got to the point where you have very few families left, no-one of working age. It's getting harder and harder to find people to care for the elderly who have retired to the area."
Mr Swift said the change had accelerated over the last decade since the arrival of Airbnb.
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Second home owners have turned to the platform to market their properties as holiday lets, with dozens listed around Weybourne and the string of brick and flint villages which stretch along the coast road.
Airbnb said: "Most Hosts pay a 3pc fee - meaning the overwhelming majority of what they charge stays with them and the local community.
"Travel on Airbnb generated more than £5bn for the UK economy in 2019."
But Mr Swift said: "The change has happened over the last 10 years, Airbnb has made it so easy for anyone to become a holiday let.
"If they register as a business, they get small business rate relief and what used to be a home doesn't pay anything into the village at all."
The government has pledged to close the loophole, whereby second home owners can register their properties as businesses and even claim rate relief.
The village's parish council has carried out a survey. It revealed there were just 13 under-18s among the village's 400-strong population, the majority of whom were aged over 50.
While not every second home or holiday let owner responded, the average occupancy rate among those who did was 18 weeks - less than half of the year.
Mr Swift continued: "We have people here who've had second homes who've become part of the community. Tourism is important, it's hugely important.
"The local councils are all trying to promote tourism more but we don't have the infrastructure for it and we don't have the employee base for the service industries.
""We used to have a youth club, it doesn't exist any more. The majority of pubs have become restaurants, you used to get people who would pop down the pub for a drink because they lived on their own and they were lonely.
"The buses stop at 3pm in the winter time because there aren't enough people here to run services."
This newspaper's online survey has had hundreds of responses since it was launched at the start of the week.
Around half said second homes and holiday lets had caused their communities to suffer a loss of amenities.
One respondent said: "From what I can see, the problem is Airbnbs which are not let through local agencies. They put back very little into the local economy or community.
"Agency let properties pay a lot for local services. Second home owners that I know personally also are good contributors."
Another added: "Villages and towns will decline further if working class people are forced out. Tourism is just one part of a wider rural economy where wages are low.
"Other parts of the economy and rural community will suffer if people of working age and lower incomes cannot afford to live there."
And one posted: "Ensure that new developments include a percentage of genuinely affordable housing. Limit number of properties solely used as Airbnb lets."
Not everyone agreed. One respondent wrote: "Second homes and holiday lets are essential to areas such as this.
"Remember many holiday visitors become second homers who then become permanent residents on retirement. I write from experience."
Others said the market should be left to itself, while one added: "Most second homes are not suited to young families anyway."
You can take part in the survey below.