“Be warned,” cautions Whitby’s tourist information website. “You may decide to stay forever.” But it’s not visitors staying forever who have attracted the ire of residents. It’s those who decide to buy a second home in the pretty North Yorkshire seaside town and spend just a fraction of their time there – or rent it out to holidaymakers.
While tourists have flocked to the port and fishing community since Georgian times, today they’re almost everywhere you look: defending their fish and chips from seagulls on the quayside; drinking outside the pubs; admiring the ruined abbey that overlooks the teeming, winding streets, with their shops selling trinkets and sweets and Whitby Jet.
Every picturesque lane is full of holiday lets. Even in the less picturesque parts – the blocks that overlook car parks, and the new-build housing estates on the outskirts – much of the accommodation is vacation homes. By last year, almost 20 per cent of the town’s housing stock was holiday lets or second homes, compared with about eight per cent two decades earlier.
Enough is enough, say full-time residents, who on Monday voted, in an unusual town poll, overwhelmingly in favour of banning people from buying new-build properties as second homes. On a 22.7 per cent turnout, 2,111 voters replied “yes” to the question, “Should all new build and additional housing in Whitby parish be restricted to full time local occupation as a primary residence?” Only 157 said no.
The result is not legally binding, but residents hope it will heap pressure on Scarborough Borough Council to follow other tourist towns such as St Ives in Cornwall in introducing restrictions.