A neighbourhood plan, which aims to tackle the scourge of second homes along a stretch of the Northumberland coast, has been passed at referendum.
The North Northumberland Coast Neighbourhood Plan, which encompasses the villages of Bamburgh, Beadnell and Seahouses, has been adopted, after residents voted in favour of it yesterday. The results showed that 767 were in support, while 85 were against. There was a turnout of 39.5 per cent.
One of the key policies is that any new homes in the three parishes must be permanent residences, that is, lived in full-time and not second or holiday homes.
The most recent census data showed 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 plan states that 'the impact of these high levels of holiday and second homes has resulted in a loss of sustainability within these coastal communities.'
Therefore, 'the plan policies seek to ensure that new housing development contributes to sustainable communities, by ensuring that it is for permanent occupation only (known as principal residence housing), to redress the imbalance between permanent housing and second homes, and revitalise local communities.'
Other areas that the plan focuses on are shop-front design and outdoor signage, coastal management and promoting the preservation and/or restoration of priority habitats and wildlife.
Speaking last night, after the plan was given the Yes vote by the majority of those who voted, county councillor for Bamburgh Guy Renner-Thompson said: "Firstly, I'd like to thank everyone involved in getting us this far, especially my predecessor, John Woodman, who kick-started the whole process four years ago.
"The turnout has been extraordinary, almost double that of the Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan, which shows how passionate people are about the coast.
"The plan has generated national interest - I’ve had calls from BCC Wales and Norfolk about the second homes policy and, closer to home, Lucker Parish Council has indicated that it wants something similar in its plan.
"Finally, I’d like to point out this isn’t part of an anti-tourism agenda, like some people have made out. The whole ethos of the plan is to preserve our coastline and coastal villages, to keep them the special places they are, which encourages the visitors so many local people rely on. The plan has no effect on houses already built, but will make sure there are also homes for residents, keeping our communities fit for the future."