Planning authorities are calling for new powers to make it harder for properties on the Broads and the Norfolk coast to be turned into Airbnbs and second homes. 

The Broads Authority (BA) and North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) are both urging changes that would mean homeowners would have to secure planning permission to convert the use of their properties.

It comes amid growing concerns about the number of holiday lets and second homes in popular Broads villages like Horning and along the north Norfolk coast.

The authorities have both called for the extra powers as part of their responses to a government consultation exercise looking at reducing the impact of holiday homes on communities across the UK.

Locals in popular tourist areas such as the Broads and north Norfolk - which has the second highest proportion of second homes in the country - say the properties make it harder for locals to get on the housing ladder and create 'ghost villages' which are empty in the off-season.

However, others say second homes and holiday lets are vital to the areas, by bringing in visitors.


Fakenham & Wells Times: The Broads Authority base at Yare House in NorwichThe Broads Authority base at Yare House in Norwich (Image: Archant)


Ministers seem keen to give councils greater powers to control the numbers, but the councils themselves are strongly critical of the proposed measures which they say could make the issue even worse.

The government is suggesting various changes to address public concerns, including introducing a new category of property for holiday lets to distinguish them from residential addresses in order to make it easier for authorities to limit their number.

While they welcome the new category, the BA and NNDC argue the government's other plans undermine the intention of the policy.

Changing the category of a building normally requires planning permission but the government has suggested that people should be able to easily turn their houses into holiday lets through ‘permitted development rights’ (PDR), which requires no such permission.

The local authorities say this makes the new category pointless, as it will make it harder to control the number of such properties.

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While the government has suggested that authorities could still limit PDRs in certain areas, the authorities argue the process to do so would be cumbersome.

Addressing NNDC's cabinet, Mark Ashwell, the authority’s planning policy manager, said: “[The government should] just do it in a straightforward way, regulate it, introduce a need for planning permission then let local authorities determine whether they grant those permissions or not.”

The government has suggested that where councils want greater control over holiday lets and to stop the use of PDRs, they could use a mechanism called an 'Article Four Direction'.

Fakenham & Wells Times: The harbour at Wells-next-the-Sea, where almost 40pc of properties are now holiday lets or second homes (Image: Chris Bishop)The harbour at Wells-next-the-Sea, where almost 40pc of properties are now holiday lets or second homes (Image: Chris Bishop) (Image: Chris Bishop)

However, when Norwich City Council recently used this method to limit the amount of office space being converted into homes, it took almost two years and required approval from ministers.

Mr Ashwell said: “The mechanism local authorities would have to go through in order to secure control would be to serve an Article 4 Direction, which removes the PDR that the government has granted.

“We say in the response, ‘don’t do that’, just introduce the need for planning permission. End of. You don’t need this complicated mechanism."



The proposed new category is limited to holiday lets and does not cover second homes.

Mr Ashwell expressed disappointment at this, saying the government “largely sidesteps or fudges the issue”.

Cally Smith, the head of planning at the Broads, voiced similar views, arguing that second homes can cause more problems for communities than holiday lets because they are empty for more of the year.



One issue on which the two planning authorities diverge is on introducing a limit to the number of nights homeowners should be able to let out their properties each year, without needing permission.

While the BA has suggested 60 days a year, NNDC wants it to be much lower, at just 30 days. 

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And members of the Broads planning committee have argued it should be even higher, to allow for people to let their homes while they go away on extended holidays in the winter.

Leslie Mogford said: “A lot of people, especially more older people, like to depart these shores or sunnier climes, [Sixty days] would be quite restrictive." 

Ms Smith said it would not prevent people from letting their homes for longer but it would require permission so the impacts could be looked at.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Morston, North Norfolk, has the highest proportion of holiday lets and second homes in North Norfolk (Image: Newsquest)Morston, North Norfolk, has the highest proportion of holiday lets and second homes in North Norfolk (Image: Newsquest) (Image: Archant)



At the same time as consulting on the new measures, the government has proposed introducing a new register of short-term lets.

The proposal has been welcomed by both authorities.

They say this will help planners know how many properties are being let in the area.

Currently, NNDC has to use waste collection and council tax records to identify the number of second homes and lets.

NNDC also argues that all adverts for holiday lets should feature the registration number, to provide reassurance to customers.



The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has set out five possible measures to address holiday let issues.

These are: 

  • The introduction of a new ‘use class’ or category for short-term lets.  
  • New permitted development right to change the use of a home to a short-term let.
  • New permitted development rights to change a short-term let to a house. 
  • Flexibility for homeowners to let out their properties for a set number of nights each year without needing planning permission. 
  • The introduction of a planning application fee for the development of new build short term lets. 
  • All properties are put into ‘use classes’, but currently there is no distinction between a home as a main residence and as a second home or holiday let


In most cases, you do not need planning permission to turn your house into a holiday let.

However, many planning experts advise checking with your local council.