Row over Trust’s holiday homes

Residents in Low Newton-by-the-Sea who are concerned about the future of a house in the square.
Residents in Low Newton-by-the-Sea who are concerned about the future of a house in the square.
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Residents of a village on the north Northumberland coast feel completely let down by a charity which is converting a home into a holiday let.

And some of the community in Low Newton-by-the-Sea say this latest incident is symptomatic of the deterioration of the relationship between them and the National Trust going back a number of years.

The Trust is intending to convert 4 The Square, in the picturesque heart of the village, following the death of the previous tenant in the first half of 2014.

The charity points to the fact that the majority of the properties it owns in Low Newton are let on short and long-hold tenancies as well as the need to make best use of its assets.

However, a local fisherman wanted to rent number four, but was not able to – in a village which now has eight of 51 houses lived in all year round, according to parish councillor Alistair Simpson.

What also angers those opposing the conversion is that much of the area’s coastline and The Square were gifted to the National Trust by the land-owning Sutherland family across three generations.

Mother and son, Lady Margaret and William Sutherland, are among those annoyed by the conversion to holiday lets.

Mr Sutherland said: “The Trust can only really look after this area if the village community is on its side.

“This is what was worrying my father when he gifted the land. It’s a tragedy really.”

Residents, the parish council and MP Sir Alan Beith have all written to the director general of the Trust, Dame Helen Ghosh, while another letter has been sent to the charity’s president, Prince Charles.

A statement from Newton-by-the-Sea Parish Council said: “Parish council members, the people of Newton-by-the-Sea and residents of the wider parish are very disappointed and angry that the National Trust is refusing to listen to the concerns of the community when their remit is to protect communities.

“This is not just about the village of Newton, but has a knock-on effect with our local schools, which are at risk of closing due to small numbers.

“We could potentially have had two families living at Newton in National Trust properties, which would help create a vibrant community and prevent it from being a ghost village in winter.”

County councillor for the area, Kate Cairns, added: “Traditionally, in the past, the National Trust has supported local communities by letting its properties to local people, encouraging local businesses and listening to residents’ concerns, thereby allowing our villages to thrive. This appears to be no longer the case.”

Sir Alan Beith MP said that ‘it does not seem to me that converting a family home to a holiday let is in the best interests of the community given the already significant pressure on local people to afford housing’.

“The concerns of the community must be taken into account before this decision is acted upon,” he added.

A National Trust spokeswoman said: “We appreciate the concerns raised by some members of the local community and are in communication with the parish council.

“The National Trust owns 17 houses at Low Newton-by-the-Sea, the vast majority of which are let on both short and long-hold tenancies.

“At present, only two of the properties are operated by the National Trust as holiday cottages, and we propose to add a third.

“As a charity we are obliged to make the best use of our assets to achieve our core purpose of looking after special places, for ever, for everyone.

“The decision taken to convert this property into a holiday cottage has not been taken lightly. It will enable us to generate necessary funding to care for this beautiful stretch of coast.”