The Monday Question: Are second homes blighting the North's coastal villages?

Visit the Northumberland coast in the summer, and there are usually more people than seabirds.

Visit the Northumberland coast in the summer, and there are usually more people than seabirds.

Up in picturesque Seahouses, the population of the village increases from 2,000 to 20,000 on a daily basis between June and September, as folks from across the kingdom flood in.

Many stay in second homes, such as those found at Kingsfield, or in neighbouring Beadnell, where more than half the dwellings are now considered non-residential.

But amidst this demographic deluge are the people who live there all year round. And then there are those who cannot afford to live there because all the houses have been bought up by incomers.

Out in the crowded village centre yesterday, visitors John and Verna Woodcock, from Desborough in Northants, said they could fully understand the local dilemma.

"It depends on whether second home owners actually bring anything to the community they adopt," said Mrs Woodcock, a 52-year-old retired building society manager.

"The main problem seems to be that the houses being built are not going to local people and I think councils must do more to ensure that."

One young local mother, who declined to be named, said: "We've been very lucky, to get the first two-bedroom council house in this area for the last three years. Until then, me and my partner had to live apart, with our parents, which is not any kind of security when you have a child. There's no way we could afford to buy here. The sheer number of second homes in Seahouses is a massive problem."

Tom Quinn, a 68-year-old consultant from Woburn in Bedfordshire, sympathises.

"We have to get the balance right," he said. "Something should be done with regards to the planning system.

"There's no harm in having a holiday market locally, but that has to be carefully balanced or else the community will die."

RAF serviceman Darren Poole, 40, from nearby Longhoughton, said: "Holiday homes are a good thing in terms of income for the village, but I can see the concerns of local people." Colin Morgan, a 69-year-old retired teacher who lives at Kingsfield in Seahouses, said: "The village essentially closes in the winter, but what else can you expect in a holiday destination on the Northumberland coast?

"There are 20,000 people here during the summer months, which brings a lot of money into the village, which doesn't have much in the way of highly paid jobs.

"The houses were affordable when they were built, but supply and demand has pushed the value up.

"The prices here are no higher than elsewhere in the county."

But plasterer Peter Roper, 46, from Alnwick, said: "It's not fair at all on local people. There needs to be far more affordable housing for locals, and blocks placed on outsiders buying them."

And the final word, from one disillusioned young worker in the village, summed up the feeling of Seahouses' youth.

"It's becoming a retirement village for rich, old people," he said. "They are the only ones who can really afford to buy a home here."


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer