Housing

The location of Whitby, surrounded by National Park, is such that land supply is restricted by the boundary of the National Park. As a result, land for house building will always be scarce, and getting scarcer. House prices are being impacted due to supply. Green space is being eroded by the push to provide space for housing.

Property Ownership and Usage

We started a Facebook group at the start of 2022 around the idea of protecting the local housing stock so that local residents are not priced out of the market at the expense of properties utilised as second homes or holiday lets. Being a desirable place to visit, a relatively large percentage of the Whitby housing stock is either holiday let or second home. This impacts on

  • the market price of properties, making it harder for local family members to buy here.
  • the retention of families in the town, particularly younger people, which is impacting on school numbers, for example Caedmon College only 50% subscribed, just like some village schools.
  • societal cohesion, leaving streets as ghettos, with some areas having very few actual full-time residents, and a constant changeover in people in a street resulting in parking and anti-social behaviour issues.
  • employment, causing a lack of work-age people, meaning that local businesses servicing the tourist trade cannot find staff for their business.

Holiday lets currently pay no council tax, and can pay little to no business rates (if they get Small Business Rates Relief) hence not contributing toward the development of the area, with the process for converting a residential property to a holiday let requiring relatively little effort.

In a recent UK Treasury “initiative” towards the cost of living crisis second home owners will get a £400 payment for their second home towards fuel costs, that they aren’t residing in, meaning that they get £400 on their permanent residence and the same on their other house despite the fact that they can only live in one home at once. One further example of the UK Government effectively encouraging second home ownership while the owners of those properties contribute little to the community where the home is located.

As of May 2022, it is estimated that Whitby (population : 13049) has around 28.5% of all houses as second homes or holiday lets; this figure is derived below, using data from assorted sources.

Housing TypeNumber of PropertiesPercentage of Total
Residential (NYCC Local Insight Profile 2020)565671.5%
Second Homes (SBC 2018/2019, paying council tax)87111.0%
Self-Catering Accomodation (Valuation Office Agency, paying business rates)138317.5%
Total7910100.0%

In accordance with our transparency policy, this table is downloadable in (XLSX) spreadsheet format.

So we have 2254/7910 as second homes or holiday lets, or 28.5%. For historical reference the 2011 census had 19.9% of homes with no usual resident, and the number will have grown over the last 10 years. Note that we are eagerly awaiting the 2021 Census figures to have a reliable point to base the current level from, though we anticipate it being close to the derived figure above.

In terms of estate agent activity, it is estimated that there are currently 4 second home / holiday let buyers to every 1 residential buyer. The consequential average house price in Whitby (£255000) is now 35% higher than the average house price in Scarborough (£192000), and 20% higher than the average house price in Filey (£210000) and the gap is widening (last updated Nov 2022). The Phase 1 of Broomfield Farm development has recently announced prices for its houses … 2-bed start at £204000, and 3-bed start at £275000; how these are vaguely “affordable” in a town with an average gross salary of £25000 is unclear.

The demand for second homes and holiday lets is a national issue, being felt in many other places around the country, and exacerbated by the pandemic. In this article on the BBC they mention that “the seaside resort of Scarborough, which includes Whitby, had the highest number of holiday lets, rising from 2,032 in 2018 to 2,913 in 2021″ (Fact Check for the BBC : Scarborough does not include Whitby, they are different places; maybe they mean the borough of Scarborough) with MPs from many constituencies raising concerns and demanding action is taken for a number of years, but thus far in England nothing has changed.

New Build Homes

The initial focus of our group was to address the issue of new build homes being out of the price range of local people, as well as being snapped up as holiday lets. There is ample evidence about the recent Chancel Meadows, Prospect Rise, Spa Well Court developments where a significant percentage of these new builds are now holiday lets. A first step would be to enforce all new build / additional housing to be full-time residential only. This is one of the few things that can be achieved without government legislation so makes sense as a first step.

Whitby Town Deal have allocated an amount of money (£2.6m) to assist in the development of the Broomfield Farm estate, providing 60 affordable homes with a Community Hub in a “NetZero Village”; these homes are seemingly primary residential, managed by Sanctuary. At one point it was requested that all homes from this development would not be permitted to be holiday let or second home, but this was not guaranteed (dependent on the builder of Phase 1 (Barratts) and Phase 2 (JohnsonMowat)); we really would want this to be enforced, but sadly too late for Phase 1. The Broomfield Farm development in total (Phase1 + Phase2 + NetZeroVillage) is creating around 548 homes with 209 as affordable (38%).

SBC are wanting to sign a “Better Homes” project deal with various sites across the borough, including on Whitby green space, but with no public guarantees that the houses built will be for primary residential. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Poll : Make All Future New Builds Residential

As a result of pressure from this group, a Town Assembly was held on 12 May 2022. Those residents present at the Assembly voted overwhelmingly to hold a Parish Poll in order to give all Whitby residents the opportunity to have their say. That Parish Poll was conducted under Electoral Commission guidelines on 13 June 2022. All residents who were on the electoral roll were entitled to vote on the following question:

  • Should all new build and additional housing in Whitby parish be restricted to full time local occupation as a primary residence only and forever (in perpetuity)?
Note that this question matches adoption of what has been enforced in other areas of the UK, notably in the Northumberland Local Plan in March 2022, for example. Whilst this Parish Poll is not legally binding, it is held under Electoral Commission poll rules and is effectively a people’s poll, and these polls are accepted as a democratic way to elect councillors or MPs so why should it not be accepted as an equally valid expression of the local residents views? The Local Government Act 1972 makes provision for electors of a parish to convene a meeting to discuss parish affairs, and furthermore the act also includes a provision whereby, as long as the meeting has been properly constituted, any ten electors or a third of the electors present (whichever is fewer) can call for a poll to be called on a question.
 

This poll resulted in 93.0% of votes cast in favour of all new build and additional housing being for residential only. Change is needed, and we wait for the associated councils to take action.

We clearly need to make a change to how the parish operates regarding new build houses and their permitted use, but how we go about it is not necessarily clear cut.

Q: Why don’t you apply for a Primary Residence Scheme for the whole borough of Scarborough?

The percentage of second homes / holiday homes across the whole existing borough (including Filey) is currently 7.2%, whereas the equivalent number for Whitby alone is 28.5%, consequently there is little chance that the government would approve such a move. The North Yorkshire Council proposed area committee area would exclude Filey, and so would show an even greater disparity between Whitby and its region. Restricting the area to just the Whitby parish provides a clear distinction between a hot spot with a distorted market and the surrounding area, and would focus action where it is needed, to a particular parish. Should other parishes start to suffer from the same market distortion and levels of non-residential occupancy then they could benefit from the same mechanism.

Q: What are the ways that such a decision be made law?

 

Affordability

The recent push for housing in Whitby has focussed on providing so called “affordable housing”. A typical development will provide the order of 30% of the total number of houses as “affordable”. There is pressure to reduce this to 20% in the near future, meaning that a typical development will be contributing significantly fewer properties that local people can afford, and that larger amounts of land will be required to provide the housing that the populace needs. This will only serve to put more pressure on resources such as green space. If we take a typical development in Whitby with, say, 100 homes, meaning 30 of them will be classed as “affordable” (using the current 30% allocation). With the current SBC arrangement,

  • 25% of the 30 will be applicable to the UK Government “First Homes” scheme – 8 properties.
  • 70% of the remainder (22) will be affordable/social rented – 15 properties.
  • 30% of the remainder (22) will be other intermediate (discount sales, shared ownership etc) – 7 properties.
The UK Government definition of “affordable” does not utilise the average earnings in the location that it is applied to, meaning that in an area with relatively high house prices but low earnings, the “affordable” homes are anything but affordable. In the above example, use of the First Homes scheme in Whitby at a discount of 30% will mean that those homes will not be affordable to people on average salary for the town; the discount percentage would likely need to be closer to 50% to make these homes genuinely affordable to local people on average salary. Similarly the shared ownership homes will not be affordable here, with shared ownership being a relatively expensive way of purchasing.
 

In making the calculation of affordability we need to bear in mind gross annual earnings (£), of which the following table is the ONS 2021 definition for the North Yorkshire boroughs, showing the mean salary as well as the percentiles so as to understand the distribution of earnings amongst the local population.

North Yorkshire
Borough
Mean
Salary (£)
10th %
(£)
20th %
(£)
30th %
(£)
40th %
(£)
Median
(£)
60th %
(£)
70th %
(£)
80th %
(£)
90th %
(£)
Harrogate34,634x15,21319,29522,76427,38231,73937,785xx
Selby32,5608,78415,79019,77724,46829,08131,57337,972xx
Craven29,120xx14,57717,87020,03524,784xxx
Richmondshire26,385x12,02514,44718,22220,02623,777xxx
Hambleton26,0578,34811,52516,99519,96822,66327,06629,902xx
Scarborough25,0508,57012,47015,61819,37522,25925,46631,30136,422x
Ryedale24,162xx17,02120,27322,31025,88127,557xx
In accordance with our transparency policy, this table is downloadable in (XLSX) spreadsheet format.
 
The Scarborough borough has amongst the lowest earnings of all boroughs, and with mean gross earnings of £25050 and the percentile distribution shown, it is easy to see why an average house price in Whitby of £240000 is out of reach to many people, even with a 30% discount for the First Homes scheme. A typical mortgage lender may be willing to lend up to maybe 4.5 times gross annual salary, consequently the upper limit available on a mortgage for that salary would be around £113000. This exemplifies why the 30% discount for the First Homes scheme would not result in an affordable house for a typical Whitby resident (though it would in Scarborough, where property prices are somewhat lower).
 
Let’s take an example of the cheapest property on Broomfield Farm Phase 1 “Abbey View”, a 2-bed house at £204000, and assuming they have a 15% deposit.
  • With a 30% discount, the purchase price would be ~£140000. So with a deposit of £21000, anyone earning ~£26500 could contemplate buying it meaning the lower 62% percentile could not afford it.
  • With a 40% discount, the purchase price would be ~£122000. So with a deposit of £18000, anyone earning ~£23000 could contemplate buying it, meaning the lower 52% percentile could not afford it.
  • With a 50% discount, the purchase price would be ~£102000. So with a deposit of £15000, anyone earning ~£19500 could contemplate buying it, meaning the lower 40% percentile are still priced out of the market, but at least they would now have hope of being able to buy in their home town, with it being almost within reach.
Needless to say, this example is for the cheapest new build. Where it is a young family needing a 3-bed home the affordability curve moves along and things become more difficult, though you likely then have 2 salaries to take into account.

Our 10 Point Plan

We fully realise that the above restriction would only apply to new build / additional housing, leaving all existing housing still open to an inflated market. In St Ives (Cornwall) such a restriction was imposed, and the evidence is that new build construction slowed, and instead external buyers targeted existing houses for their second home purchases. Our group will be submitting evidence to the parliamentary “Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill Committee” with MP Tim Farron who has long been campaigning for action in this sector. In the meantime the UK Government has announced a review into short-term tourist accomodation and the impact on those living in popular tourist destinations. The call for evidence for this lasts until 21st September 2022. Watch this space.

We have developed a 10 point plan of how the housing situation in Whitby can be overcome. This is defined on our Housing Proposal page.

Local Development

The Local Plan for Whitby allocated various plots of land for development. Whitby Area Development Trust issued a response to this document back in 2015.

We highlight the land that is part of the Local Plan for housing on the below map.

Broomfield Farm (HA18)

In terms of the most significant housing development in Whitby, the Broomfield Farm development is currently marked as 3 phases. Sadly SBC don’t provide an overall map of the integration of the different phases, so we have attempted to stitch them together, below. Note that the Johnson Mowat part (Phase 2) and NetZero Village are just proposals currently, with no associated planning permission.

Broomfield Farm Complete Layout

Things to note :-

  • There is no planned bus service to this development. For 548 residences, with no service close by, that is quite an omission. Would a bus service be able to run along Cormorant Drive / Kingfisher Drive? If not then any service would need to be able to turn around on the road through this estate.
  • At least some of the paths around this estate would need to be either shared paths or dedicated bike paths.
  • The green space does little to address the shortages in urban park, natural or sports green space in Whitby.
  • There are seemingly no guarantees on primary residence for these properties, leaving it open to become a second home / holiday let ghetto.
  • The amount of traffic created by this number of houses will put more pressure on Larpool Lane.

Better Homes Project

The SBC “Better Homes” project has proposed to create “affordable” homes across various sites in the borough. In October 2022, SBC announced it had found a preferred joint venture partner. Here is our analysis and response to this project as it relates to Whitby

  • Affordability : The project adopts a one-size fits all strategy across all areas in the Scarborough borough. Bearing in mind Whitby has very limited space available (national park boundary) and has an average house price of £255k, compared to Scarborough with no such boundary and an average house price of £190k, the idea fails to take into account relative affordability in the different towns. The precise affordability is not defined (“a significant proportion of these new homes will be truly affordable”), and having a fixed discount (e.g the typical 20-30%) across all areas on a subset of the properties may well make some properties “affordable” in Scarborough but they almost certainly would not be affordable for the majority of younger people who wish to find a home in Whitby (≥40% below local market value would typically be needed in Whitby). Any long term project should include an assessment of the affordability taking into account market price and ONS salary profile for the town (and whilst Whitby and Scarborough are poles apart on house market price they are very similar in income); this project does not do this. The numbers of affordable homes is not defined either … 20%? 30%? So we can conclude from this one point alone that it will not do anything to alleviate the housing problem that the town has. This doesn’t seem any different to the many developments the town has had over the last several years offering 20-30% of so-called affordable but not making a dent in the overall numbers. Someone said that repeating the same recipe over and over and expecting a different result was referred to as “insanity”
  • Building on green space : for this project in the Whitby area SBC have allocated 2 adjacent green space sites on Rievaulx Road, 1 green space site on California Road, and 1 Local Plan (formerly green space) development site (HA22). These equate to 1.3ha of (existing) green space being written off in a town that is already deficient in Urban Park, Natural and Sports green space (with no SBC/NYCC plan on how they will redress this – you cannot have a plan for housing on green space without a corresponding plan for green space). Note what the SBC Local Plan says (HC14) “The redevelopment of existing open spaces and outdoor sports facilities, including those identified within the Green Space Audit […] for non-open space uses will only be permitted where […] there is an identified surplus of that type of open space or sports provision in that locality and the site cannot be reclassified to meet an identified deficit in another form of open space or sports provision; or, a replacement open space of an equal or higher quantity and quality can be provided in a nearby accessible location”. There is no identified surplus of Natural green space (California Road), and no other green space can be reclassified to replace it, therefore this should be prevented by the Local Plan. As stated in the 2014 Audit, “Other – Amenity” space could be reassigned to different types of green space to fill the deficits, but this is not such a case, so should be prevented for that reason also. The way they presumably get around (ever) applying that rule is to sell off the land to a separate company first and then it is no longer designated, so what is the point of the rule?
  • Primary Residence : There is no apparent primary residence clause, meaning that the properties in Whitby will be very appealing to second / holiday home investors. This is despite the parish poll in June 2022 with 93% of residents voting in favour of such a restriction. Just one look at the 3 sites chosen in Whitby – California Road (with views over the harbour), Rievaulx Road (overlooking Pannett Park), and former golf course HA22 (with views of the coast and sea down to Sandsend) – makes one wonder whether they have been deliberately picked as plum sites to attract such investors. SBC have made no effort to reflect the views of residents in the parish poll, which would have made some impact on availability of homes. Consequently one can only conclude that this deal is not to benefit residents.
  • Type of Development : Given that the amount of space in Whitby is very limited, a council should be maximising the amount of houses that are genuinely available for the local residents to address the defined urgent housing needs of the town – retention of young people / families requires either social housing or truly affordable (≥40% below local market value), and retired people need retirement living style homes (to minimise the problems of aging). This SBC proposal uses private developers, as opposed to social housing developers, and does not attempt to address the highest priority needs of the town. It instead uses up green space with houses of which a large proportion will become holiday homes. SBC’s motivation on this project must be something other than satisfying the housing needs of the resident population, either that or they have not adequately assessed the requirements of the residents (that requires consultation!).
  • Duration : This ties a council into a 30-year deal. At the current rate of decay of the resident base due to lack of progress on property availability, the town may well cease to have a future (due to lack of working age people to be able to work in the “theme park”) long before that runs its course, given the above complete lack of consideration of the special situation in Whitby. From an organisation that has not had its accounts signed off since 2015, is this responsible financial planning?
  • Consultation : There has been inadequate consultation with the public regarding this project. When exactly were the public consulted on the project aim, and on the “deal”? For a project that will have a lasting impact on the direction of housebuilding provision in the town, one would expect more than just an edict from Scarborough, but then it is symbolic of the way that SBC has “done business” over many years.

You can read email exchanges that our group has had with SBC about the “BetterHomes” project here. Still no comment on how they will address the issue with shortage of green space in the Whitby urban area, just a continual re-allocation, with no public statements by Whitby’s NYCC councillors – is the “party line” to adopt projects that are to the detriment of constituents? If so, please put that in your manifesto at the next election.

The project requires NYCC sign-off to go ahead; we urge all NYCC councillors to halt the project, and do a thorough reassessment of how it applies to Whitby and why it is not addressing the housing needs.

The HA22 site would be ideal for the urgently required cemetery extension, but SBC want to sell it off to a private developer for a project that will not resolve the town’s problems, having the knock on effect of the cemetery being relocated to yet more green space with still no plan of how this green space will be replaced; NYCC councillors must be able to answer how the green space issue is going to be resolved before approving ANY reallocation of further land.