The new development framework for the county, the Local Plan, which has been published in draft form and goes out to public consultation next month, includes a specific policy for communities where there are already significant numbers of homes ‘with no usual residents’.
Last month, the North Northumberland Coast Neighbourhood Plan, which encompasses the villages of Bamburgh, Beadnell and Seahouses, passed referendum.
One of its key policies is that any new homes in the three parishes must be permanently occupied as principal residences, that is, lived in full-time and not second or holiday homes.
The precedent for this is a similar restriction placed on the 45 new homes on land south of Kennedy Green in Beadnell which were approved in early January 2017.
Now, Northumberland County Council is seeking to replicate this example all over the county for ‘any parishes with 20 per cent or more household spaces with no usual residents’.
The policy says that new dwellings in these areas ‘will only be supported where first and future occupation is restricted in perpetuity to ensure that each new dwelling is occupied only as a principal residence’.
The most recent Census in 2011 showed that 6.4 per cent of household spaces in Northumberland had no usual residents, a significant increase from the 3.5 per cent recorded 10 years earlier.
The draft document states: ‘This is considered to be largely as a result of the rapidly increasing numbers of second and holiday homes without a usual permanent resident in the county.
‘The prevalence of second homes and holiday lets is most stark along the attractive north Northumberland coast.’
The figures show that 55.3 per cent of homes in Beadnell were not permanently occupied, along with 47.1 per cent in Bamburgh and 29 per cent in North Sunderland parish (incorporating Seahouses).
The ability of communities to thrive or even survive in the face of ever-increasing numbers of second homes has long been a concern along the coast and the new Local Plan, which will not be in place until 2020, notes two of the key issues.
It says: ‘High house prices are a particularly acute problem in the Northumberland Coast AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and its coastal villages, where there are especially high levels of second home and holiday accommodation.’
It further adds: ‘An important local issue within the AONB is the proliferation of second and holiday homes, which while providing some economic benefits, also contribute to settlements along the coast losing their sense of community, as a large number of properties become unoccupied and services do not operate at certain times of the year.’
Council leader Peter Jackson said that the new plan, for the period 2016 to 2036, would support a ‘growing and thriving county’, but Labour leader Grant Davey claimed the Tories were ‘setting the county on the path towards economic decline’.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service