The pretty Kent seaside town that is being 'ruined by Airbnbs' according to fed-up locals

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-Credit: (Image: © SWNS)


One of Britain's most popular seaside towns is being ruined by Airbnbs, locals say - with the holiday lets destroying any sense of community. Residents in picturesque Whitstable have blasted holiday lets for forcing out families.

Their anger comes after it was revealed 542 Airbnbs are available in the town. This is compared with only eight liveable apartments listed on Rightmove in the same area.

Graham Cox, of the Whitstable Society, said: "Airbnbs have stripped the life out of the core of the town." Residents and workers echoed Mr Cox's comments last week - and even one Airbnb owner agreed.

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Artist John Butterworth, 62, has lived in the town for 30 years. He listed his mother's home on Airbnb after her passing as he didn't want to sell it, and still lives nearby.

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Airbnb owner John Butterworth -Credit:© SWNS

But he said: "The reason I started this was because I was losing a job and needed an income. I am aware that there are a growing number of them.

"When I started this ten years ago there weren't as many. I don't think it is a good thing.

"It became a bit of an epidemic. I think the government incentivised people because they don't charge taxes. I think that they should charge us.

"What you find with most of these is that the owners don't even live in Whitstable. I have started to notice that there aren't any neighbours. Half the houses in this street are Airbnb.

"I came down here because I couldn't afford to live in London. Now I can't afford to live in Whitstable.

"I moved to Whitstable because of the community and that community has been compromised." Fisherman Graham West, 62, described Whitstable as a "ghost town" in the winter.

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Fisherman Graham West -Credit:© SWNS

He said: "Come in November and see how many lights are on. It comes to winter and this place becomes a ghost town.

"Airbnbs make up 60 per cent of the area. There are no locals anymore. Outside of weekends it is dead.

"Most people here don't have neighbours anymore. It is ridiculous. People are buying houses and not living in them."

Having lived in the area his whole life, Mr West has seen a lot of change and believes the Airbnbs are causing the local businesses to struggle. He added: "I think it has made a lot of difference to this town.

"The businesses start to struggle in the winter. There are lots of customers in the summertime but it's not for long, and you can't sustain a business on two months of the year.

"It would bring the community spirit back if they clamped down on it. I think they should be made to pay council tax."

Steve Notts has been running his boat tour business in Whitstable harbour for 24 years. He said: "It is not good for locals.

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Tour boat owner Steve Notts -Credit:© SWNS

"People are doing Airbnb rather than renting their houses. All the houses down the road have no locals. Come in the winter and they are dead.

"I started this business in 2000 and it has changed a lot since then. There were a lot more local people around then."

It seems that a lot of the change to the area has happened in the last decade, with many saying the Airbnbs really started picking up just before the pandemic. Shannon Jackson, 40, has been living in Whitstable for nine years with her two children, and says she has seen so much change in that time.

The pub bartender said: "It is just crazy. I was walking along my street the other day just counting them.

"They are renovating the house next to me right now to become one. There used to be such a nice old couple living there.

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Whitstable harbour -Credit:© SWNS

"In the short space of time I have been here, there has been a lot of change. It is just not a community anymore.

"I like talking to people and neighbours but now everyone just comes and goes. It used to have a real community feel, it was a fisherman village.

"I am worried that we won't be able to afford to stay here. The locals in the pub are all fed up, but they won't move because they love it here."

Resident Bob Spink, who has lived in Whitstable for 15 years, says he pities the younger generation as they will never be able to afford to live in the area. The 71-year-old said: "There's too many of them [Airbnbs]. It is a cash cow as far as the council is concerned.

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Bob Spink -Credit:© SWNS

"The youngsters who want to live and work here can't afford to. So many of them are having to move out of Whitstable.

"The majority of the people buying houses here are either going to retire or let it out. Nobody in a little fishing village can afford these prices."

However, not everyone sees Airbnbs as a negative. Some business owners say that they rely on the holiday-goers as customers.

Andy Thomas is the owner of a harbour shop called Kites and Things, which he has run for 17 years, after having run a high street shop for 30 before that. Living a couple of miles down the road he says that he has occasionally stayed in an Airbnb when attending something that goes on quite late.

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Shop owner Andy Thomas -Credit:© SWNS

He said: "For me, the more tourists that are in the town the better. I sell stuff to local people, but you need a new flow of people and the Airbnbs bring that in.

"They don't drain the life from the area, they put money in the businesses. We need Airbnb, that's the majority of the people in the town that are spending money now."

Matt, 24, from Sandwich, works at a café that is owned by a holiday company, next door to some converted fisherman huts that are now rented as rooms. He agrees that the tourists are good customers and add lots of financial benefit to the area.

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Matt, 24, works in Whitstable but lives in Sandwich -Credit:© SWNS

He said: "For us as a business it is good. A lot of people just come down for the weekend."

In response to the comment that the tourists strip the life out of the town, he added: "Sounds like an old man with too much time on his hands".

Many other residents and local business owners found themselves torn on the issue, stating that there are positives and negatives to the flood of tourists. Carly Firminger, 36, runs a café just outside of the high street which, she says, luckily is frequented by locals.

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Carly Firminger -Credit:© SWNS

After living in Whitstable her whole life, she says that she had to move out to Herne Bay as house prices became far too expensive. She said: "I don't live here anymore because the house prices have been pushed up so much.

"Half of them are empty most of the year, and it's sad when you see people who can't afford to live here and there's all these empty houses. I wanted to live here, and I wanted to raise my kids here, but I simply can't afford it.

"But it is good for business. Carpenters and painters are cashing in big time.

"There are lots of people who are becoming cleaners too as there is such high demand for them. There are good points and there are bad points."

Charlie Matthews, 33, who just opened his stall making pizza near the harbour says he also has mixed feelings on the influx of Airbnbs. He added: "I don't think they are great. There is just too many of them around town, it brings the price of everything up.

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Whitstable is one of Britain's most popular seaside towns -Credit:© SWNS

"There is nowhere to live. Every other house is an Airbnb.

"The place is packed in the summer for these two months, but the rest is awful. I heard that there's not even enough people living in the town now to fill the schools.

"It does bring a lot of business too, but we need a better balance."

An Airbnb spokesperson said: "We recognise the housing challenges towns like Whitstable face and we support the new regulations for short-term lets in England, which will give local authorities the information they need to enforce rules and protect everyday Brits who host to earn additional income.

"The majority of our hosts in Kent are everyday people who share their primary home for fewer than three nights a month, and two thirds of UK Airbnb hosts also say the additional income will help them afford the rising cost of living."

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