Holiday homes to be restricted at Suffolk resort

Beach-goers enjoy the sun on a warm summer day in Southwold

New plans aim to curb the number of second and holiday homes in Southwold - Credit: Neil Didsbury

New holiday lets and second home properties in one of Suffolk's most popular coastal resorts will be restricted in future.

Southwold’s Neighbourhood Plan – a key document drawn up by community volunteers over the last six years to allocate land for future development and infrastructure needs – has been approved unanimously by East Suffolk Council.

It followed a referendum on February 3 in which 87% who voted backed the plan, with a turnout of 37%.

One of the key clauses in the plan is for a ‘principal resident requirement’ which will restrict new builds to being for main homes and not holiday lets or second homes.

Southwold has a high number of people who own second homes

Data shows 50% of Southwold properties are not a prime place of residence - Credit: Archant

Office for National Statistics data indicated 50% of the town’s homes have “no usual residents”.

It has led to concerns over the sustainability of the town, with the neighbourhood plan confirming that discussions with businesses had “highlighted deep concerns about the impact of the lack of full-time residents on their viability”, adding: “an abundance of tourism during the summer did not make up for the off-season trade”.

Suffolk County Council forecasts indicated that the 105-place primary school may be undersubscribed by as many as 67 places by 2024 because of the abundance of second or holiday homes.

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The plan said: “With the ability to physically expand Southwold greatly restricted by its near-island nature and the sensitive environment in which it sits, it is important to strike the right balance so that the thriving tourism economy does not undermine the town’s viability.

“Without a thriving full-time community, Southwold will lose many of the things that make it a place that people want to visit and spend their holidays.

“In seeking to strike this balance, and in light of the trends over the past 10-15 years which are considered to have swung too far, it is necessary to have a ‘principal residence requirement'."

David Beavan on Southwold seafront. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

David Beavan on Southwold seafront. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Southwold Liberal Democrat councillor David Beavan welcomed the plan, which he said “gives a voice to local people”.

“The residence clause is welcome but we have little land left to build on,” he said.

“We need more help from planning to control the inexorable spread of holiday homes who at this rate will wipe out the resident population in 20 years' time.”

Conservative cabinet member for planning and coastal management David Ritchie, highlighted other key ambitions, such as protecting green spaces and small shop units for independent traders, describing the plan as “innovative”.

He added: “The plan includes distinctive policies that respond to important local issues. These include a principal residence requirement policy.

“This requires all new housing to be occupied only as someone’s principal residence.

David Ritchie, cabinet member for planning and coastal management at East Suffolk Council

David Ritchie, Conservative cabinet member for planning and coastal management at East Suffolk Council - Credit: EAST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

“Innovative policies include supporting delivery of affordable housing from community-led housing groups through redeveloping assets of community value, community land or buildings or existing employment areas if and when they become available."

The plan must be considered by planning officers and planning committees when future applications for the town come forward.