Real Yorkshire being pushed out by Airbnb and halloumi-eating househunters - Sarah Todd

TODAY, for the first Saturday morning in 20 years there was no national newspaper delivered to our doorstep. Of course we’ve always taken The Yorkshire Post, but it was accompanied by another broadsheet of repute.

Holiday homes in Whitby are a bone of contention.
Holiday homes in Whitby are a bone of contention.

There have been various niggles over the years. A change in motoring correspondent - which sent The Husband into decline - and the disappearance of a specific country page to name just a few.

But the final straw came over the last few weeks, with the front pages taken over with property features on families discovering more bricks for their bung and good state schools in this place called the north.

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Is it just yours truly, or do others feel like they are sick to death of this particular post-pandemic trend?

Last time we went for a wander down the cobbled streets of Whitby there was barely a single door that wasn’t painted in upmarket Farrow & Ball. No longer homes to fishing families, expensively good taste name plates marking them out as second homes and holiday cottages.

Same in the villages. Cottages where gamekeepers and farmworkers used to live are done up to within an inch of their lives. Listed on Airbnb and lost forever to the local community.

While some in power seem to think local oiks should simply vacate the area in which they have grown up to make room for the metropolitan elite all credit to the MP for Scarborough and Whitby who has called for tax changes to tackle the growing numbers of holiday lets and second homes.

Robert Goodwill’s call to the Treasury comes as figures show almost 20 per cent of residential properties in Whitby are now second homes and of new builds developed over the last decade more than 15 per cent are holiday lets - pushing and pricing young, local people out of the property market and, inevitably, out of the town they have grown up in.

Mr Goodwill has shone a light on a loophole which means that many second homes are eligible for council tax discounts, and holiday cottages are being listed for business rates but also have means to become exempt due to their rateable value - meaning they are not paying into the services they use such as bin collections.

Back in 2002 the number of homes used for second homes/holiday lets in Whitby was 484, a figure that has more than tripled to 1,681 in 2021.

In Cornwall residents have described themselves as an ‘endangered species’ and have called for the compulsory purchases of unoccupied second homes amid the deepening crisis in affordable housing.

As an interesting aside, Cornwall has 12,776 second homes and more than 11,000 holiday lets, while around 21,800 people linger on its housing register looking for somewhere to call home.

The coastal village of St Agnes has this year seen local outrage at such statistics cross over into activism, with a mass protest and hostile graffiti.

One local pensioner was so incensed by the construction of yet another mansion that she wrote across the unoccupied seafront property “No more investment properties” and “Second homes owners give something back: rent or sell your empty houses to local people at a fair price”.

Speaking anonymously, the protesting pensioner said: “When my husband and I bought our place here in 1998 it cost £80,000. We had really ordinary jobs and we could afford to buy here.

Now, half of the properties nearby are holiday lets or second homes and young local people are competing for housing with millionaires. It makes me furious. We’re like an endangered species.

“This is not the platinum edge of the UK; this is people’s homes and communities.”

Organisers of a protest group, First Not Second Homes, are campaigning for licences for second homes, new planning laws and an end to ‘no fault’ evictions which allow landlords to rapidly rid themselves of tenants without good reason and free the property up for sale or the holiday let market.

Residents of Wales have long stood up against the curse of second homes, which make up around 40 per cent of the housing stock in some areas. Currently councils can charge a second home premium of up to 100 per cent but come next year that’s set to increase to 300 per cent.

The line from Cornwall about feeling akin to an endangered species rings true. The shepherd turned author James Rebanks has written at length about the influx to his native Lake District of incomers making farmers feel like a kind of indigenous species, cast adrift in their own landscape.

This is very relatable. There is many a Yorkshire market town that used to be full of farmers and just normal hard-working ‘now then’ sort of people.

Now, rather than the headscarved old ladies of yesteryear, it’s completely normal to find greengrocers full of southern-accented yummy mummies taking an age to select an aubergine - what are they all about then? - or an avocado.

Just the other week a butcher was telling me about being exhausted with customers wanting a full life history on everything in the shop.

Nobody just nips in for a sausage roll anymore, this new cashmere jumpered brigade have to know the provenance of everything.

Farmers attending livestock markets used to create a buzz about traditional country towns.

Now they are outsiders in a world of halloumi-eating househunters and holidaymakers; looked upon with barely disguised disdain. Their work clothes marking them out as a rare breed.

Does it matter? No, not on the scale of world problems. But blink and it will be too late to do anything to reverse this two-tier society of affluent incomers and locals cast aside.

Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.