'Don't demonise us', say holiday let owners

Malcom Starr

Malcolm Starr pictured at Wagg Court, in Docking - Credit: Chris Bishop

Second homes and holiday lets have been in the spotlight recently, amid claims they are harming communities in several popular Norfolk villages.

But one couple, who rent out a string of holiday lets, have hit back at the criticism and emphasised the contribution they make to their area.

Malcolm and Claudia Starr have converted former workshops and the land around them into 15 new properties at Docking, near Hunstanton.

Seven of them are holiday lets, while eight have been rented out to local people.

Mr Starr said five people were employed full-time doing cleaning and maintenance at the properties, while the couple have also provided local builders with years of work.

Wagg Court

Wagg Court, Malcolm and Claudia Starr's development at Docking - Credit: Chris Bishop

He said he had invested millions of pounds in the development, which has brought a steady stream of visitors to the north Norfolk coast.

"We're helping to keep the pubs and restaurants full," said Mr Starr. "The pubs and restaurants employ lots and lots of people directly and indirectly.

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"There's a knock-on effect for other businesses. We buy fresh flowers for all the holiday lets, hampers, cakes.

"Last year was a boom year, everyone wanted a holiday. This year's been slower, the hotspots are still Brancaster and Thornham on the coast." 

Concerns have been raised in recent weeks over the number of second homes and holiday lets in several Norfolk villages. In some areas of the coast - dubbed Airbnb-on-Sea - almost half of properties are holiday lets.

Critics say some communities are suffering, as the properties undermine the economic and social life of villages, while pricing out locals.

Owners can take advantage of a loophole - which the government has pledged to close - where they can avoid paying council tax and claim business rates relief if they register their properties as holiday lets.

Wagg Court Docking

Properties on Wagg Court which are being rented out to local people - Credit: Chris BIshop

But Mrs Starr said: "I run it as a proper business, it's not through Airbnb. We're trying to promote north Norfolk. We offer quality holiday homes and we provide employment."

The couple's properties on Wagg Courtyard, which sleep between two and six and cost around £600 a week to rent, have drawn rave reviews from guests. 

But west Norfolk council has threatened the business with legal action after receiving a complaint over a sign the Starrs have put up to promote the business near their home on the A149 coast road at Holme.

It remains to be seen whether concerns over holiday lets might be behind the complaint to the council.

A council spokesman said: "When we become aware of a potentially unauthorised sign we will investigate and, if we believe that an offence has been committed, we may take action. In this case we became aware of the sign after receiving a complaint.

"Displaying an advertisement that requires approval without the necessary consent is an offence. We wrote to Mr and Mrs Starr advising them that the sign did not have consent and giving them the opportunity to remove it before proceedings were initiated."

Starr Holiday lets

The sign advertising their holiday lets which Malcolm and Claudia Starr have been told to take down - Credit: Chris Bishop

Mr Starr said: "I have to take it down because it's an offence. It'll be the village nimbys no doubt, who've got nothing better to do."

Hundreds have responded to an EDP survey to have their say over the issue of second homes and holiday lets.

Around half said second homes and holiday lets had caused their communities to suffer a loss of amenities, while the same number said they were struggling to buy a property. But views were divided on how to solve the problems.

One posted: "There needs to be a system in place to seriously limit how many properties are sold as second homes or holiday lets."

But another said: "The free market is the only thing that can solve it, not even more taxes and government intervention."

Docking

A number of developments are in the pipeline at Docking - Credit: Chris Bishop

A number of other developments are in the pipeline in and around Docking.

Another person who replied to the survey said: "We wouldn’t need to ruin our beautiful countryside building thousands of houses every year to accommodate more people if the current population could buy the houses that are already here. But we can’t because they are second or holiday homes for non-local people."

You can have your say below.