Scarborough Council could introduce ban on buying new second homes and holiday lets as pressure grows in Whitby

Whitby Civic Society has welcomed a decision by Scarborough Council to open a feasibility study into restrictions on local properties being used as holiday homes.

Councillors this week passed a motion asking officers to investigate the powers that the council has to enforce limits on new property sales in popular areas to ensure local people are not priced out of the market in favour of second home owners and holiday lettings.

Covenants on newbuild homes could mean that they can only be sold to owners or landlords who intend them to be used as primary residences.

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Councillors were particularly concerned about the impact of seasonal occupation in Whitby, where it is estimated that up to a quarter of properties in the town are not inhabited year-round.

Whitby

Although similar restrictions have been introduced by various councils across the UK, there are fears that they could instead distort the market by driving prices of older housing stock unaffected by the covenants up further.

Scarborough Council will prepare a report on a potential primary residence scheme to be heard at committee in March.

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In a statement, Whitby Civic Society said: "We welcome the decision by councillors to support a feasibility study into the impact of a 'principal residence requirement' for new housing. We have suggested this for some time in our comments on the council's Local Plan.

"We've been concerned for some time over the growing number of holiday lets and second homes in the town. We don't object to holiday lets and second homes as such, but to the sheer number of them. On 2018 figures, we estimate that over 25 per cent of the local housing stock in Whitby was taken up by second homes and holiday lets.

"This is causing a number of problems including town centre 'tourist ghettos' where life becomes unpleasant for permanent residents; distortion of the retail and leisure markets which primarily service visitors; transfer of rented accommodation to Airbnb; and sharply rising house prices which stop local families finding homes and contribute to skills shortages. If nothing is done, the pressures will continue to increase.

"A principal residence requirement for new housing is, we believe, well worth exploring. We'd also like to see all holiday homes making a fairer contribution to council tax, something SBC says it has been lobbying the government on for some years, along with many other councils representing tourist destinations. This would require a small amendment to existing laws, and seems an eminently reasonable idea."