Whitby residents vote to ban new holiday homes after influx of tourists
“I don’t agree with all the second homes,” says Derek Brown from behind the counter at Fortune’s Kippers, a family business dating from 1872. “We’re losing all the young kids, everyone’s gone away. The character of the town is changing.”
Over the years, he’s watched as the lanes around his shop and smokehouse have gradually been conquered by holiday lets. With the mouth of the River Esk on one side and, looming up on the other, the gothic ruins that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s easy to see why. But, says Brown bluntly, there are now so many holiday homes “it’s ruined the town”.
The lack of parking is a common complaint; the skyrocketing real estate costs is another. The average house price here was £245,405 last year, according to RightMove – an almost 30 per cent increase since 2019. For those accustomed to London prices, this may seem fairly affordable. But to anyone working in the tourism sector that drives Whitby’s economy, the cost of buying is prohibitive and, they say, there are few rental properties available.
Hospitality bosses complain the situation is exacerbating staff shortages. “People from out of town want jobs here, but there’s nowhere for them to live,” says Darren Harrison, manager of The Bridge Inn. And those whose properties here are not their primary residence will not be looking for local work.
If the problem has existed for a while, Whitby’s popularity among second home-owners shot up during the pandemic. Last summer, estate agents saw a buying frenzy. “We had maybe 20 [buyers] interested in each property,” says Alison Conn at Jacksons Estate Agents. Out-of-towners were putting in offers without even seeing the houses. “They were selling at maybe £15,000 over the asking price.”
Some of the buyers were Londoners, but many were from the so-called Golden Triangle of Leeds, Harrogate and York. A few have had buyer’s remorse. “Some holiday cottages are coming back on the market now because there are problems with staff and the owners can’t get people to service them,” says Conn.