Last week Rye News published an article dealing with the decision not to include a proposal in the forthcoming Neighbourhood Plan to limit 2nd homes in Rye. The proposal had been that all new houses should be occupied as the principal or primary residence of the purchaser. This is a policy already adopted in St Ives – a town with many similarities to Rye.
The reason given for not going ahead with this was that there was not sufficient pressure on homes from those wanting them as a second (holiday) home to warrant it.
The figures given in the current Version 8 of the Plan are, I find, a little confusing. There are, it says, a total of 2,485 households, but the number of homes it lists is made up as follows: 1,500 private homes, 350 rented homes and 400 social housing homes. These are obviously round figures and not intended to be precise, but they only total 2,250 – nowhere near 2,485.
But it is the 1,500 privately owned homes that I am concerned with. The plan states that of these, some 175 are second homes. Now, this may not sound very much, but it is, nevertheless, 11.6% of the total. Over the last few years we have seen significant rises in the value of residential property in the town and although new homes here are still relatively cheap compared with some other areas of East Sussex, first time buyers – the very people we need to stay, live and work in and around the town – are finding it ever more difficult to get their foot on this first step of the property ladder.
Despite the inadequacies of the railway, more people are finding their way to Rye either as tourists or to explore the area with a view to eventually living here. Some time after 2020 we could see the Javelin service giving a journey time of an hour or less to London and this will bring Rye into the commuter belt with a consequent dramatic hike in both demand and prices of new and existing houses, thus putting the prospect of owning their own home even further out of reach for many existing residents.
Not only that, but many of the homes purchased at this time will be as investments and 2nd homes because the purchasers will see the possibilities of a significant capital gain. It is not inconceivable that the proportion of these 2nd homes and ‘investment’ properties could well double from the current figure to 20% or 25% or even more. At this point, when combined with an influx of commuters using the place as a dormitory, the whole nature of the town we know and love will change.
Surely, therefore, the idea that those who buy here should actually live here is a good one and also one that should be incorporated into the Neighbourhood Plan now in order to protect us and those who come after us, in the future. I would urge the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group and our Town Council to think again about this.
Photo: Rye News library