It is the latest step in the bid to tackle the town’s housing crisis which has seen house prices rocket to the point where local, young people and families are having to move away to get on the housing ladder and almost a quarter of the town’s properties are classed as holiday lets or second homes.
On Thursday night, a rare town assembly was held under a 1972 local government act, the first of its kind for 20 years, where attendees agreed that the process for the referendum should be moved forward.
More than 100 people were in attendance and, in an emphatic vote, it was agreed that the question, ‘Shall all new builds and additional housing in the Whitby parish be restricted to full-time local occupancy as a permanent residency only and forever in perpetuity?’ be put to the returning officer at Scarborough Borough Council’s democratic services.
If the question is deemed suitable for a public poll, it has to be scheduled to take place within the next few weeks and should the people of Whitby vote in favour, it will lie with Scarborough Borough Council to take forward.
Coun Chris Riddolls from the White Leys ward of Whitby Town Council proposed the question.
He said: “It is not possible to do anything about buildings that are already built. We are trying to stop the building of houses that are not what Whitby people want - that is the main issue of this proposal. The council has to build the right sort of houses for Whitby.”
At Thursday’s meeting, Marie McCrone said: “This approach of restrictions, there are some issues around how much it helps or not and in some areas it has helped considerably.
“There is research about the destruction of communities and where you go above 20 per cent ownership of holiday homes and holiday rentals.
“The key thing for me is that it is absolutely vital there are affordable homes in Whitby for people who are born here, live here and work here.”
Susan Hornby who was born and lived in Whitby all her life said her children have had to move away from the town for work and housing because they couldn’t afford to stay.
She said: “My daughter moved to Leeds because there was no work here, when she wants to come back, she can’t afford to buy a house. My son lives in Guisborough because he can’t afford to buy a house in Whitby.
“We are losing the young people from our society. It is okay saying build affordable homes but some people can’t afford a mortgage, what about rental properties?”
However, rental properties are becoming scarce as private landlords start to move away from the sector due to financial burdens, red tape and lack of legal protection - with increasing numbers choosing to holiday let rather than long-term contracts.
Last month, The Yorkshire Post reported that Scarborough and Whitby MP, Robert Goodwill had called for an overhaul of the business rates system to make holiday letting less attractive a business model and earlier this week Tim Farron MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in the Lake District spoke in the House of Commons to slam reforms to improve housing issues caused as a result of second home ownership as laid out in the Queen’s speech.
He warned proposed reforms to tackle second home ownership are not comprehensive and will leave loopholes for properties bought as an investment to let out as holiday homes.
He said the reality of affordable homes is that they are not and he was angry for rural communities across the country.
“We are building for demand and not for need, and it is time to build for need. The Government do not give planning authorities the power to say to developers, ‘Get knotted unless you are going to build for local people and families and make those places affordable.’
“So I am angry, not just on behalf of my community but on behalf of communities across rural areas of our great country, that there is so little, if anything at all, for us in this Queen’s Speech.”