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Residents fear their home is becoming a 'ghost village'

Derbyshire residents fear their idyllic pocket of the Peak District is at risk of becoming a “ghost village” – and it’s not alone.

The diminutive village of Over Haddon sits just south of Bakewell and has a population of around 250 people, living in 110 households, with lofty views over Lathkill Dale.

However, one in four of these properties are either holiday lets (21) or second homes (eight) for people who live elsewhere for at least the majority of the year, according to Derbyshire Dales District Council figures.

Councillors of all political backgrounds – and none – have long proclaimed that Peak District villages are host to the most acute housing pressures and badly in need of more homes, particularly for young people.

They have bemoaned that extremely few new homes – and in some cases none – are being built in Peak District villages and hamlets.

Meanwhile, they claim the few homes that go on the market are being snapped up for Airbnbs or holiday homes for people living elsewhere – with the blame often put on southerners.

District council data shows buyers of holiday lets and second homes often live in the nearby cities of Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield – but also in London and Birmingham.

Dales residents themselves, it found, own second homes elsewhere such as in Cornwall, the Lake District, North Wales and East Riding.

Current Airbnb listings for Over Haddon show 16 properties for rent, ranging from a £84 per night one-bed “guest suite” to a £328 per night four-bed “five-star boutique home”.

A three-bed cottage currently for sale in the village is on the market for £575,000.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service visited Over Haddon on a grey and drizzly day to gain an insight into the life of villagers among holiday lets and second homes.

Villagers told the LDRS that Over Haddon is currently at a “tipping point”.

All were surprised at the figure that a quarter of “homes” in the village did not maintain that as their primary purpose.

Contending views on the situation both dubbed Over Haddon at risk of becoming a “ghost village” – for differing reasons.

Opposition to holiday let increases said the village could be destined to effectively become a holiday park in all but name, populated by tourists and other visitors – with little to no real residents and the absence of a “community”.

Supporters said the village would head that way if properties were not snapped up for holiday lets, with residents unable to afford the house prices and much of the accommodation being costly to convert and refurbish or unsuitable as a family home – due to a lack of parking or garden space and with steep stairs.

A resident who did not wish to be named, and owns a holiday let himself, said: “The balance is getting better. A few homes have recently gone into permanent occupancy since the Covid pandemic and some only have permission to be holiday lets.

“Some properties are just going to sit empty if they are not converted into holiday lets because they are not suitable. Second homes are worse than holiday lets because they sit empty.

“The only way to sort the housing problem is to build more houses. Many houses here are not suitable for modern living. We need more affordable, good quality housing for families.”

A resident working in visitor services, who has lived in the village for 47 years, said: “Years ago there were hardly any holiday lets and only some second homes but that has all changed and we have a high percentage.

“It has affected things. There are not as many village people left to attend clubs or events at the village hall or in the church.

“Over Haddon has become a very affluent village. You are probably in the cheapest house now, a former council home.

“Older residents of the village are dying and when they do their homes become holiday lets or Airbnbs. The pub will probably benefit from it but there are no other benefits for us.

“People from down south can move into the village because they can afford the prices, it is nothing to them and the dynamic of the village has changed.

“We do have a number of empty houses that do nothing for the village, one has been empty for 30 years and is owned by someone in Chesterfield, with one the owner died and the home can’t be sold and then there are four empty due to village elders dying and those will probably become holiday lets.

“It is a cycle of buy it, do it up and let it.

“I am not totally against holiday cottages, it is just the number of them. We are going to be a little ghost village if we are not careful. I want to see children in the village again, it is a different village now.”

A former social worker who moved to the village in 1996 said it was “such a shame” that small more affordable homes in the village were being “snapped up for Airbnbs”.

She said: “It is creeping into Over Haddon. It is a very small village and parking has become a big issue. It does clutter up the roads.

“They are just proliferating. I don’t know how you can stop it because people are entitled to get the best price for their houses.”

The village is home to a church, a village hall and a pub and does not have any other public services, she said, with a former cafe having closed years ago.

A further resident said: “We have probably got too many of them (holiday lets). It is really difficult to get rentals at the moment. It is not affordable, the houses that are for sale are too expensive and there is a demand for holiday lets.

“It is sad when families have to move out of the area.”

He said he had put their home on the market due to plans to work abroad for two years. The property was listed on the Friday, received an offer by the following Saturday and let by Monday, such was the demand for rented properties.

A self-proclaimed property developer, who has lived in the village for 15 years, told the LDRS they owned several holiday lets “all over the country” including two in Over Haddon.

She said the influx in holiday lets was “perfectly fine” if done and managed properly – such as the provision of sufficient parking within the site of each home.

They said: “It has a profound impact on the economy and local people can’t afford the prices anyway. People from down south will buy the homes so they are better as holiday lets.

“It is good for the area, the tourism business in Derbyshire brought in something like £13 million last year and that is from people coming in and needing somewhere to stay.

“If holiday lets are properly run and if people are mindful of the area then it works well.

“If people like me don’t turn them into holiday lets they will become second homes because they are just not affordable and people from down south or abroad will buy them up and leave them empty and small villages like this will become ghost towns.”

A couple who worked in the tourism trade for 20 years told the LDRS that there was “certainly no good that I can think of” from the increase in holiday lets.

They claimed there had been a 30 to 40 per cent increase in holiday cottages in the past few years.

This was welcome for buildings which were not suitable for homes and which could have ended up being bulldozed or lying derelict, but not for properties which could house the village’s next generation.

A retired business consultant who has lived in the village for 15 years said: “We are at risk of not being a village anymore but a holiday-let destination. I’d say we are just at the limit now.

“The Peak District does rely on tourism but what we have lost is the village community.

“The next generation can’t afford to buy houses here so they have to move to Matlock or Chesterfield. We are now on the tipping point, particularly in villages like Over Haddon, of being taken over by holiday lets and day-trippers.”

Peggy Wilson, 40, who has lived in the village for eight years, working as a dog walker, said she is “surrounded” by holiday lets and is in one of the last few remaining permanent homes on her row.

She said she often gets deliveries intended for holiday lets, gets blocked in by parking and has had bad experiences with noise disturbance from visitors enjoying a back garden hot tub and setting off fireworks.

Ms Wilson said: “The actual community here is dwindling and the tourism industry is taking over. There is no benefit for the village. The peaks are a desirable place to come and visit but the balance now is not quite right.”

Council papers published in February showed that out of 35,000 homes in the Dales, 2,950 properties are either holiday lets, second homes or have been empty for more than two years.

These properties are said to be largely concentrated in the spine of wards running south to north from Wirksworth to Bakewell, through to Hathersage and Eyam, the council says.

As of January this year, the council said there are exactly 1,000 second homes in the Derbyshire Dales, alongside 1,464 empty homes (577 empty for two years or more) and 1,373 holiday lets.

Consultants hired by the council found Over Haddon is host to one of the largest proportions of holiday lets in comparison to overall properties.

A 2023 report from the Times and Inside Airbnb found the Derbyshire Dales had one of the strongest concentrations of Airbnbs in the Midlands. 

It identifies particular concentrations of listed properties in the National Park, particularly around Bakewell, Chatsworth, Eyam and Hathersage.

There were 75 Airbnbs per 1,000 homes in Ashford-in-the-Water, Bakewell, Baslow, Chatsworth, Edensor, Hassop, Monyash and Youlgreave, it found.

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