A upmarket village dubbed the 'Prosecco Ghetto' for the number of wealthy tourists it attracts has become the latest to crack down on properties being used as holiday homes or lets.

An overwhelming majority of locals in Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk voted for measures to control so-called 'lock and leaves' because they are being priced out of the market.

It means the backlash against outsiders now covers a virtually unbroken 30-mile stretch of coast in the idyllic north of the county, one of the UK's most popular holiday destinations.

More than 1,000 people – out of 1,706 registered to vote – took part in a referendum over a new neighbourhood plan which included a clause stipulating new builds can only be sold to someone using them as their 'principal residence'.

Of these, 819 (82.4 per cent) were in favour, 175 (17.6 per cent) were against, and 41 ballot papers were unmarked or spoiled.

The outcome threatens to deepen a rift between locals and business owners in the region, with the former arguing measures are necessary to enable locals to live in the area, while the latter fear struggling to survive if their income is affected.

Speaking before the referendum, Arthur Howell, a fourth generation butcher in Wells whose business was established in 1889, said: 'We need the business that holidaymakers bring in over the summer to get us through the winter. It would be very worrying if that was to stop.'

But Wells town councillor Roger Arguile today insisted it was vital to take action, saying: 'Local people could not afford to buy houses in Wells.

'It was described by a housing needs assessment as a 'perfect storm' in that there was no way people's children could live here.'

North Norfolk communities have complained of looking like 'ghost towns' during the off-season or weekdays when 'townies' go home, leaving town centres empty and houses plunged into darkness at night.

Mr Arguile added: 'If you walk along High Street in the dark then more than 50 per cent of houses appear to be empty for a lot of the year.'

Spending by second home owners represents a tiny fraction of the income received by local businesses, he added, because 'they arrive on Friday and the supermarket van which they booked in advance delivers their groceries' and then head home on the Sunday without visiting other businesses and attractions as they've seen them before.

Some 627 of Wells' 1,560 properties registered for council tax are second homes or holiday lets – around 40 per cent. In the most popular areas, the proportion rises to 90 per cent.

The average price of a house is £530,000 according to recent Office for National Statistics data – nearly 14 times the average income for the area.

The neighbourhood plan – which must be taken into account by the planning authority, North Norfolk District Council – states: 'The growth in the number of second and holiday homes, as well as people from out of the county buying permanent homes in Wells, is putting pressure on local people and their grown-up children who want to live in the town.'

In nearby Old Hunstanton, 91 per cent of people who took part in a similar referendum voted for curbs on holiday homes and lets in February.

Burnham Market, dubbed Chelsea-on-Sea due to the numbers of well-heeled Londoners who flock to boltholes there, has also taken action.

The line of communities fighting to control the ebb and flow of tourists stretches from Heacham to Blakeney.

Similar schemes have been introduced in holiday hotspots around the country, including in Cornwall, Dorset and North Yorkshire.

Council tax on second homes will also double in many locations from next April. The discretionary measure was brought in under the Conservative government's Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

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2024-07-10T14:22:10Z dg43tfdfdgfd