Seaside towns becoming 'theme parks for the rich' amid an Airbnb surge

Britain’s seaside Airbnb hotspots: A QUARTER of homes in Croyde and one in five in St Ives are now listed for rent on holiday website after sharp rise – amid fears coastal resorts will become ‘theme parks for the wealthy’

  • The number of staycation homes have swelled by 56 per cent in seaside resorts 
  • Demand for coastal dwellings is three times higher than for inland properties 
  • The news has sparked fears seaside areas could be turned into ‘ghost towns’ 
  • Beauty spots in Devon and Cornwall bore the brunt of holiday rental homes hike 

Rich staycation tourists are threatening to transform Britain’s seaside communities into ‘ghost towns’ amid a huge boom in the number of Airbnb holiday homes now dominating coastal beauty spots in England and Wales. 

New figures have shown the number of ‘entire places’ for rent in seaside towns has swelled by 56 per cent between 2019 and 2022, compared to 15 per cent in non-coastal communities. 

The sheer volume of means that the demand for Airbnb listings per property is three times higher in coastal areas than inland regions.

It’s prompted fears Britain’s traditional seaside communities could be killed off and turned into ‘theme parks for the wealthy’ by the numbers of holidaymakers pouring into them.

Analysis has now revealed a quarter of all properties in Woolacombe, Georgeham and Croyde in North Devon were listed as Airbnbs in May of this year, up from one in six in 2019.

The Scores, a beauty spot overlooking the sea in St Andrews, in Scotland, mirrored the boom seen in North Devon, with a quarter of homes now listed.

Meanwhile, in St Ives and Halestown, popular surfing resorts in Cornwall, now has one-in-five of their properties listed on Airbnb. While Newquay, also in Cornwall, and Whitby in North Yorkshire now have one-in-six of all dwellings advertised on the site. 

New figures have shown the number of ‘entire places’ for rent in seaside towns has swelled by 56 per cent between 2019 and 2022, compared to 15 per cent in non-coastal communities

A quarter of all dwellings in Croyde, Devon, are now Airbnbs. Pictured is Croyde Bay

Meanwhile in the popular surfing resort of St Ives, one-in-five homes are listed as Airbnbs in a revelation that has been branded ‘unsustainable’ by a local councillor

Tourists gather at St Ives Harbour in Cornwall during hot weather over the Easter bank holiday weekend last month

St Ives Town councillor Andrew Mitchell has lived in the coastal beauty spot all his life and said the swell rental properties was having a huge impact on the community.

Although insisting St Ives ‘welcomed tourists’, he told MailOnline: ‘Having one-in five properties as an Airbnb is unsustainable for any community… People know it’s bad by one in five – that’s both amazing and disgusting at the same time.

‘If that trend continues you are condemning a whole generation of people having to move out of St Ives.

‘All those people who come down and want their week or two weeks… there will be nobody to serve them in the restaurants of bars.’ 

Housing campaigners have warned that the surge in demand may point to landlords now favouring holidaymakers over local tenants – at a time when residents living in the town affected are facing spiraling housing and mortgage costs. 

‘Tourists don’t want to visit ghost towns. And most people can’t afford to live in a theme park designed for wealthier visitors, Will McMahon, the director of Action on Empty Homes told The Guardian. 

Mr McMahon said this action ‘sucks properties out of the housing market’ and ‘fragments communities’ He added the current woes ‘ultimately kills the very communities that were once considered to be part of the attraction to visitors’.

Analysis of Airbnb’s latest figures looks at homes listed as ‘entire place’ for rent, instead of a room in a house or a shared room. 

The investigation found that one in every 105 properties in coastal areas were advertised with Airbnb in May 2019.

But three years later and the figure had ballooned to 67 dwellings – three times higher than in inland communities, which has 196 properties advertised on Airbnb.  

In all, seaside towns in Britian have seen the number of Airbnb properties listed grow by 40 per cent over three years, compared with just 17 per cent in non-coastal regions, with two-thirds of the 50 most popular destinations being based by the sea.

However, figures have also shown sharp rises, too, in some inland cities, with the number of listings in Newcastle Town, Newcastle-under-Lyme, swelling by more than 1,000 per cent since May 2019. 

 

St Ives Town Council is lobbying Cornwall Council to let it develop land the larger authority is sitting on

While there has been a 500 per cent boom of listed Airbnb homes in Leicester City South and Holme, Melbourne & Bubwith, East Riding of Yorkshire. 

The revelation comes as Britain’s ‘staycation spots’ continue to push back against wealthy ‘outsiders who have been snatching up properties to convert into holiday homes.   

It follows an historic decision by the people of Whitby to ban out-of-towners from buying new builds in the harbour town.  

Residents in the fishing port on the Yorkshire coast turned out in their droves in June and won a landslide 93 per cent vote to stop new builds being sold to rich Londoners amid mounting fears that families are being priced out of the housing market.

Campaigners celebrated the result, saying the referendum will highlight the problem of ‘bonkers’ prices forcing teachers, doctors and other key workers out of town while leaving it as a ‘theme park’ for wealthy second homeowners. 

Whitby’s astonishing decision sparked a ‘quiet revolution’ among disgruntled residents in a string of historic seaside towns across Britain – from Lyme Regis, Salcombe and Falmouth to Tideswell and even St Ives.

Whitby councillor Philip Trumper claimed her town’s example could ‘inspire others to do the same’, adding: ‘There are lots of seaside resorts in the UK that are in a similar position. While a vote shows the strength of public opinion, it is not legally binding, so these areas will all have to change their local plans’.

Speaking to MailOnline, Falmouth town councillor Jayne Kirkham said the people of Cornwall, Devon, Cumbria, the Peak District and Wales will all have been watching the result of the Whitby referendum with ‘great interest’, and if successful, there could be more public votes.

File image shows a general view of the quaint English seaside town of Whitby in Yorkshire 

Whitby residents pictured queueing to vote in a referendum that will allow them to limit second home sales

One resident of Lyme Regis, Dorset, which is on the list, said they must push for similar ban to avoid becoming a ‘zombie town’ in winter. Meanwhile architect and Kent coast resident Matt Hayes said that Whitstable – the top destination for second homeowners in the South East – could ‘consider’ backing its own ban on ‘outsiders’, ‘given the plethora of Airbnb key safes you see dotted about’.

In the Peak District, mother Sharon Bates was reduced to tears at a council meeting as she claimed holidaymakers had forced house prices up so much that her sons had to leave Tideswell in Derbyshire, where her family has lived for four generations.

‘No one was listening to us, it’s just money, money, money’: Whitby locals describe being forced out of historic Yorkshire village after they turned out in their droves to limit second homeowning

Furious locals in Whitby won a landslide 95 per cent victory in the first round of a campaign to purge the seaside resort of holiday cottage owners who mainly live 250 miles away in London and the Home Counties. In some streets every single house is a holiday home in a resort where the average property price is now £254,218 – up 20 per cent in a year. But most locals are priced out because they earn an average of just £18,900.

LOCAL ART DEALER JOHN FREEMAN 

John Freeman

Reacting to the news today,  local art dealer John Freeman who trades in the market place, said: ‘No one is listening to the people in Whitby.

‘It is just money, money, money. That is the thing which is speaking loudest. It is appalling for local infrastructure. Virtually every shop in Whitby has a notice saying ‘Staff Required’ because the people who wold work in cafes or restraints have no way of living locally with the way wages are.

‘The whole town is being forced into a downward spiral.’

GIFT SHOP OWNER DANNY WILSON 

Gift shop owner Danny Wilson

Gift shop owner Danny Wilson, 52, said: ‘It is a fashionable thing to do to buy a second property. Meanwhile, I am living in a cellar. I cannot find a house. Whitby has to has a bit of artistic flair to make it the town it. Those sort of people are being priced out so there is nothing interesting happening in the community.

‘All the pubs used to have local bands. People would come because we were artistic and interesting. But that’s all gone because local people cannot afford to live here. I had enough money three years ago to put down on a place but prices are going up faster than I can save.’

TRADESMAN ANDREW CAVENDISH 

Andrew Cavendish

Andrew Cavendish, 35, said: ‘I am a tradesman at Whitby. If I get evicted from my property i would have to move away because there is not a rental that suits me and my three children that I can afford. I could not stay if I wanted to. It is ridiculous.

‘Some big firms are snapping up former rental properties for sale and rent them out to workers. Customers are my bread and butter. But it is not a case there is no suitable housing. There is no housing for local people. It is a real issue.

‘I will not be able to have my business in Whitby. My landlord is selling the house in spring so I am ready looking at houses outside Whitby.’

CHIPPY OWNER DANIELLE BROWN 

Fish and chip shop worker Danielle Brown

Fish and chip shop worker Danielle Brown, 46, told MailOnline: ‘I am living in rented accommodation and would love to buy my own house. But the prices around here are ridiculous and I am skint. The houses are going up and up and up and I could not move out of my flat because there is absolutely nothing.’

Local rock shop owner Sarah Chambers, 36, added: ‘It is a bit of nightmare. You have to look at it as a business person as a local.

‘As a business owner for us it is great. It brings revenue to the town and that’s what pays our wages. But I get the point first time buyers cannot get on the property ladder.

‘So I can see both sides and that is why I did not vote. Staffing is a big issue. We cannot get the staff for seasonal wages. It is absolutely crazy. There is a lot of holiday homes in Whitby but it brings a lot of trade so it is a tough one and there will be a witch hunt in Whitby about this. I am a local but have a holiday home as well.’

She said: ‘My husband and I were both born and bred in Tideswell, our two children were also born and brought up in Tideswell. It’s only in recent years that they’ve moved away due to not being able to afford property in the village. The park is a beautiful place to live and it makes me sad that our children and other children don’t have the opportunity to stay here. Most properties end up as holiday cottages.’

Also speaking to MailOnline, Ashford Price of The National Showcaves Centre for Wales said: ‘I have a huge amount of sympathy with what’s happened in Whitby. I believe that Welsh people have the right to live in Welsh homes, built by the Welsh, for the Welsh.’

St Ives in northern Cornwall voted for a second home ban six years ago, but the jury is still out on whether it has helped because house prices have remained high. The new house ban has also seen new developments pop up outside restricted areas of the town.

Cllr Kirkham said that Cornwall has enough holiday lets and second homes to house all 22,000 people on the area’s waiting list – and that the Government must devolve more powers to the county so they can clamp down on the issue.

She said: ‘We have a real crisis in Cornwall and we need more control over planning rules. Too much of the power is in the Government’s hands. They can solve this problem. But we need a suite of powers, not just a ban on second homeowners buying new builds. 

‘In Wales they are doubling or even trebling council tax, a council tax loophole for second homes has not been properly closed and in Scotland there is a register of holiday lets and Airbnbs. We need that here’.

She added: ‘The people of Whitby will need to do more things to solve the problem’.

Meanwhile in Wales, tourism leaders have reacted with horror to confirmation of new occupancy rules for second homes and holiday lets.

From April 1, 2023, the Welsh Government will insist that self-catering properties are let for at least 182 days each year in a move critics say will ‘decimate’ the Welsh tourism industry. At the moment lets only have to pay the cheaper business rate if they are used for 70 days. But from next year they need to let them out for at least 182 days or will have to pay more expensive council tax. 

Holiday lettings firm Finest Retreats, which promotes 29 holiday cottages in Wales, warned the challenging occupancy target will hit rural economies the hardest by driving up prices and making the country a ‘less attractive place to visit’.

Talking about Wales’ experience, Mr Ashford told MailOnline: ‘In a way, we’re starting at the other end of the process, because the Welsh authorities have more or less decided to make it their policy to put expensive seaside cottages on the market in order to get rich people from England to buy them, knowing that prices are going up and are not falling anytime soon.

‘The Welsh Government’s launched a big crackdown on second homes which means that, from next April, holiday homes have to be let out for more than 182 days a year. This means that a great number of self-catering businesses are going to be absolutely clobbered by the new rules. Some experts have said up to 1,400 businesses could go under, and thousands could lose their job.

‘So all of a sudden, these lovely homes in idyllic parts of Wales are going to go on the market, going to become available, and who do you think they’re going to be bought by? Not by the Welsh, who will then be out of work and poor. No, it will be from wealthy English people with money to spare who want to make an investment.’

Visit Cornwall’s chief executive Malcolm Bell told MailOnline that a ‘perfect storm of historical factors’ including Covid and the WFH revolution, years of investment in Cornwall’s infrastructure including its roads, airports and broadband, and low interest rates has caused city folk with inheritance money to splash their cash on ‘bricks and mortar’ in the South West.

He said: ‘We can’t just get mad at people coming down with all their money and shout at them. Instead, we need to get behind solutions to the problems we face as a community.

‘Yes, we don’t want too many people coming to these smaller towns and villages. It’s not wholly good for the local community, and it causes damage to the environment as well. But we don’t want this to flip the other way and cause anti-tourism. People down this way are generally more friendly than in other parts of the country, but they won’t be endlessly nice and polite. 

‘At the moment, people are attacking the symptoms, not the disease. This has been caused by a perfect storm of historical factors. 

‘One is the creation of a property-owning society which really expanded under Thatcher in the 1980s. Another is all this money that people have inherited, and they’ve looked at the market and seen that interest rates are low and the stock market is stable, and they figure it’s a good time to buy.

‘Then, Cornwall has become much more connected. There’s been a lot of investment in airports and roads, and we’ve got super-fast broadband too, which is attractive to a lot of people from cities looking to buy out cottages as second homes or to let out for holidays.

‘And then the big recent change has been Covid. I think a lot of people working from home for most of the last couple of years have looked at their lives and decided they want to keep working from home, or they want a better lifestyle more generally. So they’ve looked around and Cornwall is attractive to them. But now you have this situation where locals now see all these people with all this money coming down and buying up places, and the rage has grown. 

‘It has become a lightning rod for all their other grievances.’

Furious locals in Whitby won a landslide 95 per cent victory in the first round of a campaign to purge the seaside resort of holiday cottage owners who mainly live 250 miles away in London and the Home Counties. 

In some streets every single house is a holiday home in a resort where the average property price is now £254,218 – up 20 per cent in a year. But most locals are priced out because they earn an average of just £18,900.

Reacting to the news, local art dealer John Freeman who trades in the marketplace, said: ‘No one is listening to the people in Whitby.

‘It is just money, money, money. That is the thing which is speaking loudest. It is appalling for local infrastructure. Virtually every shop in Whitby has a notice saying ‘Staff Required’ because the people who wold work in cafes or restraints have no way of living locally with the way wages are.

‘The whole town is being forced into a downward spiral.’

Gift shop owner Danny Wilson, 52, said: ‘It is a fashionable thing to do to buy a second property. Meanwhile, I am living in a cellar. I cannot find a house. Whitby has to has a bit of artistic flair to make it the town it. Those sort of people are being priced out so there is nothing interesting happening in the community.

‘All the pubs used to have local bands. People would come because we were artistic and interesting. But that’s all gone because local people cannot afford to live here. I had enough money three years ago to put down on a place but prices are going up faster than I can save.’

Despite its homes overlooking Porthmeor Beach, St Ives also has some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Cornwall

Andrew Cavendish, 35, said: ‘I am a tradesman at Whitby. If I get evicted from my property i would have to move away because there is not a rental that suits me and my three children that I can afford. I could not stay if I wanted to. It is ridiculous.

‘Some big firms are snapping up former rental properties for sale and rent them out to workers. Customers are my bread and butter. But it is not a case there is no suitable housing. There is no housing for local people. It is a real issue. 

‘I will not be able to have my business in Whitby. My landlord is selling the house in spring so I am ready looking at houses outside Whitby.’

Pensioner Steve Roberts and his partner had their hearts set on retiring to Whitby but cannot now afford their dream home.

He said: ‘I am originally from Oxford and the same thing has happened in the Cotswolds.As the old people die, the move the property to people who have come in with money. Then they develop the property and the value goes up so no one locally can afford to buy that property.

‘Houses around here used to be cheap and chips. Now town is dead for half a year because of the number We did want to retire here but I cannot afford to buy a property here.’

Fish and chip shop worker Danielle Brown, 46, told MailOnline: ‘I am living in rented accommodation and would love to buy my own house. But the prices around here are ridiculous and I am skint. The houses are going up and up and up and I could not move out of my flat because there is absolutely nothing.’

Local rock shop owner Sarah Chambers, 36, added: ‘It is a bit of nightmare. You have to look at it as a business person as a local.

‘As a business owner for us it is great. It brings revenue to the town and that’s what pays our wages. But I get the point first time buyers cannot get on the property ladder.

‘So I can see both sides and that is why I did not vote. Staffing is a big issue. We cannot get the staff for seasonal wages. It is absolutely crazy. There is a lot of holiday homes in Whitby but it brings a lot of trade so it is a tough one and there will be a witch hunt in Whitby about this. I am a local but have a holiday home as well.’ Airbnb question the accuracy of the findings, saying that unusual listings like caravans and large manor homes used for events, may not impact local housing stock.  

An Airbnb spokesperson told the Guardian: ‘The pandemic changed the way we travel and moved demand from densely populated cities to coastal and countryside communities, which created new economic opportunities for local families to boost their income by occasionally renting their home. 

‘The typical UK host rents their own home for just a couple of nights a month to boost their income, and over a third say the additional income helps them afford rising living costs. Airbnb welcomes new rules and we proposed a host register to the UK government, and we continue to support its consultation on the matter.’

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