Norfolk homeowners could need planning permission to convert their properties into short-term holiday lets under new government plans to ease the housing crisis. 

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ proposals are for stricter rules on short-term holiday lets, which campaigners in north Norfolk say are "killing" coastal towns and communities. 

Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP, welcomed the plans, saying the high number of second homes in coastal towns and villages has “hollowed out” communities.

“It’s a step forward to help protect these communities,” he said.

“The number of second homes makes it virtually impossible for local people to buy homes in the towns they have grown up in.

“It will help to build more affordable homes and give local authorities the ability to identify and control the number of second homes.”

READ MORE: Are parts of north Norfolk becoming Airbnb-next-the-Sea?

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It comes as the total number of holiday lets in England rose by 40pc between 2018 and 2021, which the government said was impacting both the availability and affordability of homes on the market for local people to both buy and rent.

North Norfolk has the second highest proportion of second homes in England, with 7,169 second and holiday homes, as of April 1 last year.

The new plans aim to control the future increase in the number of these homes in tourist hotspots like north Norfolk.  

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Tourism contributed £529 million to the north Norfolk economy and provided employment opportunities for an estimated 11,898 people - around 20pc of the total jobs available in the region – in 2019.

READ MORE: Will second home 'ban' see 'Prosecco Ghetto' regain its fizz... or lose it?

Homes for Wells is a housing co-operative with 31 properties with affordable rents for local people. 

Its chair, Lynne Burdon, said it has a further 38 families on its waiting list, three of whom are homeless and most of which are currently living in unsatisfactory conditions.

She said 40pc of houses in Wells were second or holiday homes.

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“It’s killing the town,” she said.

“There isn’t enough affordable housing for local people, and people can’t afford to live here. Local families have been forced out.

"A lot of businesses are seasonal and depend on tourism. We want to make sure they survive, but we want to also support businesses who serve the community the whole year round.

"Families who have lived and worked in Wells for generations all have a tale of someone who have moved inland because they can’t afford to live here.”

READ MORE: Empty homes officer role given green light

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Last year, a draft neighbourhood plan was drawn up in Wells which stipulated that any new property built in the town must be used as a sole or main residence.

Roger Arguille, who chairs the working group behind the plan, raised concerns over the latest government moves.

He said: “While it’s a logical step it doesn’t solve the problem, as just because people have to apply for planning permission doesn’t mean it will be refused.

“This town survives on tourism but we need people to buy houses to live in them.”

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The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport estimates there were 257,000 short-term and holiday lettings in England in 2022.

Councillor Wendy Fredericks, portfolio holder for housing and benefits at North Norfolk District Council, said the extent of the issue, and the total number of holiday lets, was “hidden” behind online platforms, like Airbnb.

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“Unfortunately, holiday lets are not regulated and we need more regulation,” she said.

"A lot of the industry is hidden on online platforms and we need to have more of an understanding of how many homes are being used as holiday lets.

“It puts chalets and caravan parks at an unfortunate disadvantage because they are open for a period of a few months a year whereas holiday lets are available all year round.

“Local people can’t live where they need work.”

North West Norfolk MP James Wild said the changes would “strike a better balance” between helping people to both rent and get on the property ladder, while “ensuring the benefits of diverse accommodation” to support the tourism sector.

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