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‘The houses opposite are just dead’: How demand for holiday lets is damaging the UK

‘The houses opposite are just dead’: How demand for holiday lets is damaging the UK

Earlier this month, residents of Whitstable gathered to discuss a growing crisis – the slow death of their community at the hands of tourists – with blame laid firmly on the growth of second homes and holiday lets.

Locals listed numerous problems caused by a proliferation of short-term rentals in recent years, from poor parking and litter to all-night parties. The seaside town on Kent’s northern coast has also seen a steady decline in year-round inhabitants that has left the town feeling “hollowed out”, they said.

It’s a familiar story for anyone living in one of the UK’s holiday hotspots. Around the coast, and in popular tourist destinations such as the Cotswolds, Lake District and parts of Wales, resentment has been brewing for some time.

Locals are being increasingly driven out by soaring house prices, and the effect has been devastating, both for those forced out and for those left behind.

Janet Pearson lives in Newlyn, a working fishing port in West Cornwall that has become increasingly popular with holidaymakers in recent years. The road she lives on, a quiet terrace of small fishermen’s cottages, is perfect for the Airbnb market.

One by one, the houses are being sold to investors and let out for a week or two at a time.

“It’s cancerous in the way it’s spreading,” she said. “When I first moved here 10 years ago, every house on my road was lived in, with several families and quite a few children. During lockdown two houses became holiday lets, then more.

“It’s sad in the winter. When I pull my curtains at night and look out, the houses opposite are just dead. There’s no light in them at all. It makes me feel very isolated.”

Just 10 miles away, the honeypot resort of St Ives has been grappling with the pressures of over-tourism for decades. In 2016, the town became one of the first in the country to try and legislate against the tide, voting through Policy H2, which stipulates that newly built homes can only be sold as a “principal residence”.

Canterbury City Council could be missing out on almost £500,000 of revenue due to holiday lets, a councillor has claimed

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Other places have followed suit: the Cornish towns of Fowey and Mevagissey, as well as Brighton, Whitby, Scarborough and parts of Norfolk.

Few want to drive the holidaymakers out completely – many of the UK’s…

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