Could Southwold's approach to second homes work in north Norfolk?


Campaigners and councillors have expressed reservations that a bid to restrict holiday homes in Southwold could work in north Norfolk.

Last month, East Suffolk Council agreed a neighbourhood plan that means all new housing in the seaside town must be occupied as someone's main, or principal, home.

But could the idea work along the stretch of coast from Wells to Waxham?   

Southwold has a high number of people who own second homes

Southwold has a high number of people who own second homes - Credit: Archant

Lynne Burdon, chairperson of Homes for Wells, said: "We have some reservations about it because of the experience of St Ives in Cornwall. 

"In principle it’s a really good idea but it has some unintended consequences."

Lynne Burdon Homes for Wells

Lynne Burdon, chair of Homes for Wells, a group working to provide affordable housing in the town. - Credit: Homes for Wells

The restriction tends to push up the price of older properties and pushes down the price of new builds, she said. 

"It also discourages builders from building in the area because of the covenant. So it’s not as simple as it appears.  

"We do think there are better ways around the problem. We would like to see a tax on empty properties, that goes back into the local community and would help provide affordable housing for local people.  

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"It’s good to see people try solutions and it will be interesting to see what happens in Southwold," she added.

Tim Adams (Liberal Democrats) North Norfolk County Councillor for Cromer division.

Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council. - Credit: Supplied by the Liberal Democrat

Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), said: “It’s an option that should be considered for communities but some would say that this model and the so-called St Ives model in Cornwall might have backfired a little bit, because it’s by no means perfect."

He can understand why Southwold are considering the idea, and thinks north Norfolk will also consider it. 

"But I think we are going to have to put the government under more pressure to come up with some answers because we’re under extreme pressure," he said. 

"Our housing services are under tremendous pressure and not enough is being done to resolve it.” 

Liz Withington.

Liz Withington, North Norfolk District Councillor. - Credit: Archant

Councillor Liz Withington, who represents Sheringham North ward, said the idea is something that needs to be looked at but there is some evidence it results in higher prices for older houses.  

She said that the council is currently looking at all aspects of second homes and holiday lets, establishing their impact on north Norfolk, and looking at what needs to be done, which may include lobbying the national government for legislative changes.    

What happened in St Ives?  

In 2016, residents of the Cornwall town voted in a local referendum to ban the sale of new houses as second homes.  

The regulation was designed to make housing more affordable for local people who were being priced out of the market by wealthy summer-dwellers. 

Three years later, however, a study by the London School of Economics (LSE) suggested the plan had backfired.  

According to the research, bans on second homes in tourist locations had hurt the local tourism and construction industries. 

At the time, Professor Christian Hilber, who led the study, said: "In St Ives, where primary homes can easily be converted into second homes, demand has switched from new-build to existing homes and, possibly, to other nearby towns.” 

This had led to an increase in the price of existing homes as summer dwellers competed for existing homes with local residents, he said.