Do second homes and ‘incomers’ help or hurt coastal villages?
- Credit: Archant
A mystery sign which appeared on the wall of a closed shop in Burnham Market has re-ignited the debate around second homes and incoming residents. Reporter STUART ANDERSON looks at some of the issues involved.
It is one of the most sought-after corners of Norfolk among wealthy house hunters and has even been dubbed 'Chelsea-on-sea'.
But is Burnham Market's popularity paradoxically slowly killing the village?
That was the implication of a mock 'English Heritage' sign, which mysteriously appeared on the wall of the Burnham Market Pharmacy, which closed at the end of June after almost 200 years in business.
Although the closure was due to the death of the owners at the end of 2018, the anonymous sign suggested it was part of a wider malaise, reading: "The Pharmacy 1830 - 2019 Burnham Market A dying village, poisoned by wealth. Finally dispensed with. RIP."
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But does the preponderance of second homes and newer residents - so-called 'incomers' - significantly hurt the village by driving up property prices and leaving homes empty for much of the year, or do second home owners bring benefits which outweigh the perceived problems?
Samantha Sandell, councillor for Burnham Market and Docking ward on King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, said she could see both sides of the argument.
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Ms Sandell said second homes benefitted a cross-section of working people.
She said: "On one hand second homes bring in work for the local builders, painters, gardeners, cleaners and other trades. They bring customers to the pubs and restaurants, and that may explain why we have so many great places to go to."
But, Ms Sandell said, second homes do push up property prices.
She said: "We are told that market forces have driven up the cost of properties, and this has the effect of making little cottages unaffordable for the locals. Villages become very empty in the winter months as a result, as second homes are not lived in all year round. Sadly I think the way we shop using the internet is having an effect on our high street shops."
Property prices have risen a whopping 254pc on 20 years ago, when the village began to draw second-home buyers en masse.
London-based buyers have been attracted to Burnham Market's Georgian streets, closeness of marsh and beach, and relative isolation.
Opinions were split when we appealed for views on the issue via social media.
One strong reaction against second-home owners came from Norfolk resident Cheryl Thorne, who described the situation as, "The modern form of invasion without war." She added: "Norfolk villages haven't been invaded like this since the Vikings and the indigenous folk have been caught on the hop!"
And Loretta Latham echoed the thoughts of many, saying: "What the people with the money must realise is that Norfolk is our home and remember to respect us as we deserve. Sometimes manners evade some of them. Live and let live being our motto, come to our villages and enjoy our coast but please don't forget our young people need homes too."
Jill Brammer said she felt for Burnham Market's permanent residents, who may feel their community had been "stolen". She said: "Second home owners put money into the local economy by employment of building contractors, beautifying their property.
"If they visit regularly they will support restaurants and shops. But many don't visit regularly and the houses stand empty. It sucks the soul from a place."
Poppy Jeanie Carr offered a different perspective, saying: "Why is everyone so against people who have moved here?
"I've lived here for five years. I moved here for my job, pay my taxes like everyone else, use local shops, etc."
And Thomas McNamara said: "I'm an incomer and moved here in 2017 because I love north Norfolk. I just want to contribute positively and live in peace and harmony in a lovely town, with lovely people. I don't want to change anything."
Ms Sandell added: "Perhaps there is no easy solution to this issue of second homes and their effect on a community, because although many properties have become out of reach of the locals, if they weren't second homes many of the locals wouldn't have a job."
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Burnham Market: Where prices are booming
The average price for a home in the village stood at £636,148 at the start of July, according to Zoopla.
This represents a rise of 4.43pc on the previous July, and is more than twice Norfolk's current average property value of £266,000.
There are only a couple of Burnham Market homes currently on the market - a 1960s three-bedroom semi-detached cottage with offers over £850,000, and a four-bedroom terraced home in a former jewellers for £695,000.
There is another listing for a 'deceptively spacious' two-bedroom bungalow for £200,000, which comes with a 'restricted covenant' that the buyer must have lived or worked in Norfolk for the past three years.
Alex Drown, from Abbotts estate agents in Hunstanton, said such listings were not uncommon in areas such as Burnham Market, Thornham and Wells.
Mr Drown said: "There's a few properties with that sort of restriction. These are usually ex-council properties that have been bought privately.
"The council put the restriction on them so that local people can afford to buy a property in the area."
A resident's view: We need to take control
Mike Oldfield has been a lifelong resident of Norfolk and lives in Burnham Market.
He said the village was 'run down' as recently as the 1960s, and the conversion of the central Hoste Arms into a hotel and boutique restaurant in the early 1990s encouraged a wave of incomers and second-home owners, and was still a major factor in keeping the village alive. He said: "We probably have the biggest range of shops and food services all employing locals on the Norfolk coast, and without visitors of all sorts those shops and jobs would go."
Mr Oldfield said the key was to build lots more affordable housing, which would require a change of mindset in local government. He said: "Our councils must seriously encourage and facilitate social housing development.
"I realise just how lucky we are to live in such a wonderful place, however we need to confront what problems we have and hold those to account who are responsible for sorting it out, or take control of our own destiny."