Villagers in Norfolk's holiday home heartland have delivered a resounding rejection of more people buying up weekend retreats in their community.

A referendum in Burnham Market – nicknamed “Chelsea-on-Sea" because of the large proportion of Londoners with property there – has seen locals overwhelmingly back a bid to limit the number of second homes and holiday lets.

More than 80pc of voters supported the introduction of new measures to curb such properties, by putting conditions on all new developments requiring them to be 'principal residences' and a ban on existing homes being turned into holiday retreats. The proposals needed only 50pc approval to come into force.

The average house price in the village is now £1m and, as in other villages in the area, locals say they are being priced out, with young people leaving in search of cheaper options. 

Those who remain have warned of the area being 'hollowed out' by the large number of properties which are often left empty.

Fakenham & Wells Times: The village sign at Burnham Market (Image: Chris Bishop)The village sign at Burnham Market (Image: Chris Bishop) (Image: Burnham Market has been dubbed Chelsea-on-Sea because of the number of well-heeled Londoners with se)

Dennis Clark, chairman of Burnham Market parish council, said: “The vote in favour was very strong. It’s a good result for a referendum

“When we put out an early document for people to comment on, they could do so from their armchair but for this they had to go out and vote and they have made their feelings clear. 

“It’s a positive move forward for the village because it is what the village wants. 

“We don’t want to keep people away from Burnham Market, but we want to encourage lower-cost housing so that the people who work here can live here. We need young people to be able to stay here to keep the village vibrant.” 

Fakenham & Wells Times: Burnham Market has been named among the UK's poshest villagesBurnham Market has been named among the UK's poshest villages (Image: Archant)

Now the proposals have been approved they will become part of the village's neighbourhood plan which will be used to guide West Norfolk Council when determining local planning applications.

While Mr Clark hoped the measures would help address the issue, he said it was not the entire solution, with government intervention needed. 

However, he feared that ministers' plans to allow local authorities to charge double council tax on second homes would see owners class their properties as businesses, which would also limit council tax income. 

“What we should be doing is making people who have a furnished holiday let pay council tax like everyone else,” he said.  

Mr Clark also acknowledged that it was unclear to what extent West Norfolk Council would actually have to take the local plan into account.

“The plan is barely a day old yet, so there is a concern that it may be overlooked in certain cases. We have to see what the consequences will be over the next four to six months.” 

It is estimated that one in four properties in Burnham Market is a second home, and the population has fallen by more than a fifth in just two decades.

Some 948 people lived in the village at the 2001 census. By the 2021 count, the number had fallen to 724.

Of them, some 635 people were eligible to vote in the village, with 201 casting their ballot – a turnout of 32pc. 

In total 161 – 80.1pc - voted in favour and 40 – 19.9p - voted against. 

North West Norfolk MP James Wild said second homes have been a growing concern locally. 

Fakenham & Wells Times: James Wild, MP for North West NorfolkJames Wild, MP for North West Norfolk (Image: Richard Townshend Photography)

“Many constituents have raised concerns about the impact of holiday lets and second homes and the government has already introduced measures to help strike a balance to have sustainable local communities and support tourism,” he said. 

“The plans approved by residents including a principal residency test will mean the needs of local people for affordable homes to rent or buy are taken into account when considering planning issues so we can have vibrant villages. 

“Such covenants already apply to some properties in parts of north west Norfolk and have been used recently for a development in Hunstanton.  

“Instead of a blanket approach it’s important to recognise that in different places different issues will arise and local people’s views should be listened to as part of fostering sustainable villages and coastal towns.”