Yorkshire beauty spots are being destroyed by scourge of second homes - GP Taylor

When I lived in Whitby, every Friday at 3pm, the back of St Hilda’s Terrace began to fill up with the cars of second home owners (Sechomers).

This was especially so during the supposed lockdown, which did nothing to stop the divine right of these people to up sticks and spend their weekends by the sea. In fact, one man would even make sure he had his on-street parking space reserved with his very own traffic cones for when he arrived in his 4X4 oversized manhood enhancer.

Sadly, this would seem to be the attitude of Sechomers. They appear to live in the belief that they are the saviour of the seaside towns and beautiful villages of Yorkshire and that we should all doff our caps to them for keeping the pubs and shops open. How deluded they are.

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All these people do is push up the prices of houses so that locals can no longer afford to live in them. They destroy communities, bring about the closure of schools and put pressure on local infrastructure. The money in their pocket does not get splashed around the local shops as what they don’t bring with them is usually delivered by a supermarket van.

House prices in popular Yorkshire seaside towns like Whitby are beyond the reach of local families as more properties are bought as second homes. Picture: James Hardisty

Ysgol Abersoch school in Gwynedd, North Wales, has been forced to close because of dwindling pupil numbers due to tourists snapping up properties. Locals there have been outraged at the loss and that nothing has been done to stop Sechomers turning the place into a ghost-town in winter.

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There is no doubt that this will soon be seen in Yorkshire. Many villages are being hollowed out by holiday lets and second homes. Places such as Robin Hood’s Bay are already in crisis with only a handful of permanent residents living in the bottom of the village. Most of the other properties are holiday homes or holiday lets. The village is losing its soul and turning into a seaside, olde-worlde theme park that is empty in winter.

Yet, the selfish people who buy up these properties do not seem to care about or understand the destruction they are causing to historic communities. They do not listen to the facts that they are pushing up prices of houses so that locals can never afford them. Businesses are finding it hard to find staff, as rents in these villages and nearby towns are too expensive.

This is a national issue. From Falmouth to North Berwick the problem is the same. Rich people buy up houses that would normally be occupied by local families. A semi-detached house in Sandsend, near Whitby, has just gone on the market for nearly £700,000, which is well above the £280,000 national average. In Whitby itself, a small cottage is advertised at £499,000. In other parts of the country, holiday lets can sell for well over a million.

How can locals afford prices like these? Isn’t it time that during a housing shortage crisis, that rich, second home owners are squeezed until the pips squeak?

In Wales, owners of second homes are to be hit with a 300 per cent tax rise next year in a bid to stop locals being priced out of the country’s housing market. Why isn’t this been done here? Is it because those in power are part of the problem?

The Government has showered subsidies and tax breaks on second-home owners. Sechomers who rent out properties as “furnished holiday lets” for part of the year (minimum of 210 days but needs to be let for only 105), don’t have to pay council tax. By registering for business rates, they can apply for 100 per cent small business rates relief and don’t pay a penny.

It is beyond words that this plague of second home ownership is allowed to continue. There is a rental crisis in Yorkshire that needs to be addressed. Second home ownership has to be discouraged. The only way to do this is to hit the rich in their pockets until they understand the financial pain of those they are pricing out of the market.

Councils across Yorkshire should enforce a moratorium on the purchase of second homes and like Wales, place heavy taxes on Sechomers to fund an assisted purchase scheme for locals.

Houses in our beauty spots have to be allocated to locals first at a reasonable price. Our villages and hamlets have to be fought for. It is important that there is a balance between holiday lets and full- time residential properties. Villages that are empty in winter should be a thing of the past.

Young people should have the right to buy property in the villages they were brought up in. They shouldn’t be forced to move away because they are being priced out of the market.

The Government has to act now and an assisted purchase scheme put in place for locals wanting to get on the property ladder. The purchase of second homes has to be stopped in areas where second homes are greater than 25 per cent of the housing stock.

Everything possible has to be done to make sure that the villages in Yorkshire are once again full-time communities and not just the playgrounds of the wealthy.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in East Yorkshire