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Graham Awards


Landslide win for anti-holiday let vote - but a very low turnout

A campaign to stop new build homes being sold to second home buyers for holiday lets has won a decisive victory in a town referendum.

Of 2,228 votes cast in the northern coastal town of Whitby there were 2,111 votes in favour and only 157 against, with 18 spoilt ballots. 

Voters at eight polling locations were asked: "Should all new build and additional housing in Whitby parish be restricted to full time local occupation as a primary residence only and forever (in perpetuity)?"


However, the turnout was under 23 per cent.

The local council says some 20 per cent of residential properties in Whitby are second homes or holiday lets - in 2001, the figure was only eight per cent.

The result is not binding on the council or other planning authorities but the organisers - activists who call themselves Whitby Community Network - hope it will raise the issue and press elected officials to act. 

In 2018 in Northumberland, local voters gave 90 per cent backing to a coastal neighbourhood plan, which stated that new-build homes should only be permanent residences. In 2016, a similar poll of residents in St Ives, Cornwall, passed with 83 per cent of the vote, and a ban on the sale of new-builds to second-home buyers was later imposed by the local council.

However, many agents have reported that such measures merely divert interest from second home buyers to existing properties, which rise in price more and become in turn out of reach of many local people.

And a study by the London School of Economics found the ban had harmed the tourism and construction industries, and caused the pool of available housing to shrink - ironically making remaining homes even dearer.

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    As said, it will raise the price of existing homes and lower the total number available. In a free market economy I honestly don’t have an answer for this.

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    Less than 23% turnout - most people don't care!

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    In perpetuity is a dangerous clause. The housing market evolves over time so something that may seem desirable right now could be a nightmare in a few years time.
    Would mortgage lenders be willing to lend at standard rates on properties with restrictions or would it only be niche lenders charging higher mortgage rates, thereby negating the whole point of the exercise?

  • Neil Moores

    This was still 22% of the entire voting pool that voted for the motion, had there been 100% turnout and everyone else had voted against, so its a pretty good guide of opinion.
    This vote was not about homes being owner occupied or let out as far as I can see. So its not rocket science to work out that, for every second home, there is one less first home.
    A planning restriction stating that the home should only be used as a family/couple/single person HOME should not adversely affect the mortgage market and, if it did, restrictions can always be removed, and often are. I agree, though, that the "in perpetuity" wording is unnecessary and would be a hindrance.


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