I heard a short report on the local news the other day, and then forgot about it. But I woke up this morning thinking about it seriously.
Norfolk is a county with a large coastline. Not that long ago, coastal housing here was some of the cheapest available in the southern half of Britain. That attracted well-off buyers from London and its suburbs. Less than a three-hour drive from the capital, and you get countryside, huge sandy beaches, and the chance of sea views from your back garden. So they came and bought property.
Lots of it.
But they didn’t live here. They used it at weekends, to get away from the city, or sent the family up here for the long school holidays. It was quaint. It had small shops, old buildings, traditional seaside towns, and quiet roads. Once it became widely known, house prices started to increase out of all proportion to local income and availability. By 2010, a house on the North Norfolk coast cost almost as much as one in North London.
And a beach hut fetched the same price as a small house in Beetley.
(The same applies to Suffolk by the way, which is even closer to london)
The inevitable happened, and local people could no longer afford to buy homes in the most desirable areas. They couldn’t rent them either, as the second-homers could charge a couple of thousand pounds a week to let them out when they didn’t need to use them.
Then those local shops started to cater for their new rich clientele. They began to stock Pate de Fois Gras, Artisan breads, Parma ham, fresh Parmesan, and designer fabrics to decorate their second homes in style. Before long, local people could no longer buy what they needed in the villages they had spent their lives in, and were having to travel into the central Norfolk market towns to get their weekly shop.
The pubs that they enjoyed a beer and a pie in started to change into classy bistros, and gastropubs. They had wine lists as extensive as any top London eatery, and sold exclusive bottled water at £3 a bottle. So the locals lost their social life too. Then the local economy started to depend on the whims and patronage of these part-time newcomers.
I know. Times change. Things change. Nothing stays the same. Get on with it.
Soak it up. Move on.
But as if that wasn’t bad enough for the impoverished counties in the East of England, along came Covid-19. The second homers knew what to do.
Leave London, and flock to their coastal hideaways, bringing the virus with them. In less than ten days, cases of reported infection in the whole of Norfolk have gone from just one, to twenty-five, with two people dying of the virus already. It is estimated that the numbers infected will be reported as more than fifty by the end of the month, with a corresponding death rate.
But it could be more.
However, on the bright side, the second homers and their families are getting some fresh air, as they await the delivery of luxury groceries.