Second homes can be a blight and a blessing on British towns. We need the right balance | Simon Jenkins

Second homes can be a blight and a blessing on British towns. We need the right balance | Simon Jenkins

Since childhood I have lived some of the year in a Welsh valley. It is possible to become a part of the local community

Whitby has had enough. So have Mevagissey and St Ives. So has Brighton. So have the Lake District, the Cotswolds and half the beauty spots in Britain. No more second homers. Lockdown, staycations and “work from home” have seen an influx of newcomers, sending local property prices soaring by 20% over the past two years. Brighton this week voted to ban new building for non-primary residents, as have St Ives and Whitby. Others seem certain to follow. Where will this lead?

Second homes are hardly a national issue. Before lockdown just 3% of British households had one, and of those just over half – 500,000 – were in the UK. But the past two years have seen city-dwellers take to the hills and the seaside with a vengeance. They have flocked to Cornwall, north-west Wales, the Lake District and Argyll. The Cotswolds, from Chipping Norton to Stow-on-the-Wold, have become England’s Long Island. In Cumbria’s Chapel Stile, 85% of the homes are holiday lets or second homes. In Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire, only 30% are occupied by full-time residents. Cornwall now has 20 times more properties available on Airbnb than it has for long-term rent.

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