Proposed second home crackdown met with caution in North Norfolk
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY
Plans to give councils the power to cap second home numbers have been met with caution in North Norfolk.
Ministers are reportedly considering reforms, which would mean a crackdown on second home ownership in some holiday let hotspots, where they are considered to be damaging local communities.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick is understood to be considering the plan to allow councils to cap second home numbers, without the need to hold and win a referendum on the matter.
Requirements for property owners to get planning permission before they can rent out a property as a holiday let, and the ability to insist developers build more starter homes, are also understood to be among the ideas being put to parliament this autumn.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government declined to confirm whether or not the legislation is being considered, but a Government source told the Daily Mail newspaper Mr Jenrick was "open" to the proposals.
But in North Norfolk, the proposals have received a mixed reaction.
Sarah Butikofer, the leader of North Norfolk District Council, said while "something needed to be done" to address the number of second homes and lack of affordable housing in the district, bans needed to be approached with caution.
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She said the council had watched closely to see how such action had gone in St Ives - which in 2016 became the first place in the country to ban new second homes following a referendum on the issue.
"There's a fine balance," she said. "[St Ives] stopped the second homes and any new homes being sold for second homes but all it did was inflate prices and mean that local families that wanted to live in character properties were priced out of those.
"Every action you take has another side to it."
She said how to address housing shortages was a "hugely complicated issue."
"St Ives said: 'be very very careful what you do. All it's done has changed the issue to another area'. It could be [a solution] but it needs to be the right way of doing it, there need to be checks and balances in place," Mrs Butikofer added.
North Norfolk has the second-highest rate of second and holiday homes in the country, with 6,697 (11.6pc of total housing stock) second homes registered in the district in 2020.
The properties are deemed to be 'lost' homes to the local community and addressing the number is a key priority in the council's latest housing strategy.
Sonia Holman, the marketing director of Original Cottages, which has 396-holiday homes in North Norfolk, echoed Mrs Butikofer's views that restrictions would shift demand elsewhere.
She said: "If you go back 10-years or so Norfolk wasn't that trendy but now you talk to people and Norfolk's up there."
Mrs Holman said she thought any council enforcing legislation that sought to limit the number of holiday lets in an area would need to weigh up the impacts on other areas.
"Wells-next-Sea is a real honeypot to attract people but if there was a limit what we would start to see would be people going to the areas around Wells," she said.
But David Fennell, chairman of Homes for Wells which works to provide affordable housing at affordable prices for local people, said he would welcome the proposals.
"The situation has got so bad here. It's got very similar to Cornwall and something has to be done to enable the community not to be completely driven out by prices.
Mr Fennell said while not "opposed" to the tourist industry he said the rate at which it had grown had "eclipsed everything else."
He said the group was also aware of renters being forced to leave rented properties as landlords chose to turn them into holiday lets in a bid to capitalise on the burgeoning staycation market.
"The thing that's attacking communities is happening faster than we can recover it," he added.
'I've always advocated for local controls', says MP
Duncan Baker, the MP for north Norfolk said he was among a number of MPs lobbying the government for changes to the legislation around second home ownership.
He said: "We are seeing villages around the North Norfolk coast not only completely out of the reach of many local people’s affordability but also certain areas becoming dormitories in the Winter months.
"As such, a number of MPs are in discussions to try and bring in planning controls to help the situation either through new build covenants so homes must be built and sold as primary residences or through change of use planning applications to help stipulate that homes need permission to be used as second homes.
"I have always advocated for local controls to local people and through a range of measures, we may be able to devolve some local decision making to help the worse affected areas.
"The last thing I want is the dire problems people face in Devon and Cornwall coming to North Norfolk. If we act now, we can alleviate some of the problems."