Published: 13:00, 26 February 2015
The rising popularity of second homes in Whitstable is hurting the town’s trade as less people are living in the town full-time, according to the chamber of commerce.
Business owners in the town have recorded their worst winter trade for 16 years and it is thought the increase in people from London buying weekend homes – known as Down From London (DFLs) – is a contributing factor.
Stanley’s Fishmongers in the High Street has become the latest independent store to close, sparking fears the town centre is lacking support as shops are not visited during weekdays.
Brian Hitcham, president of the town’s chamber of commerce, said: “Quite a lot of houses let out are holiday lets and that’s great.
“But there appears to be some that are bought and not occupied all the time rather than being permanent.
“When the houses were occupied full-time, people lived and worked locally and they tended to be in the town more. When they’re not here they are obviously not putting money into the local community – whereas before they would pop to the bakers and use them.
“There is now is a growing number of unoccupied houses for many months and that has an impact.
“I know that February has been particularly bad for a number of retailers with one food retailer commenting that trade has been the worst for 16 years.”
A Whitstable estate agents says more than a third of its sales are now for second homes, with the town becoming more and more attractive with buyers from London.
Russell Moxley, principal of County Estate Agents in Oxford Street, said: “Whitstable has been popular for the last 15 years and it’s getting better.
“We are seeing prices rising. The market is very good at the moment – the biggest problem is supply and demand. There are lots of people looking for second homes and owners are very specific – they want to be in the conservation area and want a period property.
“They are prepared to pay serious amounts. Most of what we sell are to city buyers who will pay sometimes 10% more than market value if it’s in the right street.”
Mr Moxley disagreed, however, with the idea that an increase in second homes is hurting trade in the town centre.
He added: “I don’t go along with that, personally. I think there is enough of a population that lives here all-year-round to serve the town’s requirements.
“Whitstable has got a large enough population for size of the town to service it – second home owners are going to be putting money into the town.”