Overwhelming vote for housing measures to stop Whitby becoming a ‘theme park’

A rare parish poll saw 93% in favour of preventing new developments becoming holiday lets and second homes but it is not binding.

14 June 2022

An overwhelming vote in favour of preventing new properties becoming holiday lets or second homes in Whitby will highlight the problem of “bonkers” house prices forcing locals out of the town and leaving it as a “theme park”, campaigners have said.

A rare parish poll in the North Yorkshire tourist hotspot on Monday evening saw 93% of those taking part agree to restrict new development to “full time local occupation” in a show of unity which has no power to bind policy makers.

Campaigners said on Thursday something needs to happen to prevent young people leaving the old fishing port and make it easier to attract teachers, doctors and other key workers who have been priced out of the town.

Borough councillor Phil Trumper said a three bedroom house on Church Street, in the heart of the tourist area, would have been £25,000 to £30,000 in the early 90s but will now sell for in excess of £500,000.

Mr Trumper told the PA news agency: “I lived in that part of of the town all my life and we had a proper community down there in the 80s.

“But no-one lives down there now. It’s becoming a theme park, basically. And that’s something that we don’t want to happen.”

He said: “I think we’re at a tipping point.

“We’re losing a lot of the housing stock to holiday lets, which is driving up the prices of the properties, so its becoming unaffordable for young people who were born here and live here and want to work here. They’re having to move out of the town.

“So we’re kind-of losing all those young people that we need to keep the town viable.”

Winter weather Jan 17th 2022
Whitby Abbey at sunrise (Danny Lawson/PA)

Mr Trumper said: “It’s difficult at the moment. Restaurants can’t find chefs, there’s difficulty finding doctors for the hospital, teachers don’t want to move here because it’s too expensive to find a house.”

The councillor said he hoped a decision by Scarborough Borough Council earlier this year to include a primary ownership scheme into the local plan would help with new developments but he saw no immediate solution to existing properties.

He said the problem needed addressing at a national level, with the planning system changed so change-of-use to holiday accommodation could be restricted in certain circumstances.

“I think the government really needs to take a serious look at these issues, because it’s not just Whitby,” he said. “It’s communities all around the country that have been affected by it.”

In Monday night’s poll, 2,111 voters agreed that “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)”, with only 157 voting against, Scarborough Council confirmed.

The ballot, which was called following a town meeting last month, cannot force through any policy and the council explained that it is “no more and no less than an expression of the views of the electorate of the parish who have voted in the poll, and is not binding on any organisation”.

Around 23% of the electorate of 10,000 turned out for the poll.

A study of council tax records in 2021 showed just under 20% of all homes in Whitby were either holiday lets or second homes.

Census information from 2001 showed the figure then was about 8%.

A second question on the poll asked whether Whitby should remain within the Scarborough area committee when Scarborough Borough Council becomes part of the new North Yorkshire unitary authority.

Only 253 voters said yes with 1,982 saying no.

Whitby Goth Weekend
The annual Goth Weekend in Whitby (Danny Lawson/PA)

Whitby Community Network said in a statement on Tuesday: “The poll results clearly demonstrate the strength of feeling in the local community on these two issues.

“We trust that our elected councillors will take note and take action.

“Thanks to all the people who helped to make the poll happen – to all the voters who turned out in person – and to all the staff who took part in the late-night count.”

On Tuesday, online estate agents were advertising a three bedroom town house about a half-a-mile from the town centre for £385,000. A three-bedroom detached a little further from the centre was on the market for £350,000. A two-bedroom apartment close to the main beach, on the West Cliff, was advertised at £275,000.

The average house price in the Yorkshire and Humber Region in February 2022 was £199,939, according to the Land Registry.

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