Planning policies should be rewritten to block new housing if developments are likely to be bought as second homes, a council leader has said.

Terry Parish, who runs West Norfolk Council, has called on local authorities battling the issue to put legal conditions on new builds to stem the tide of communities becoming 'ghost towns'.

It would give them powers to reject plans unless conditions were in place that ensured people buying a home would use it as their primary residence - a move he says can help tackle the housing crisis.

Eastern Daily Press: Heacham was one of the first places in the county to introduce the measuresHeacham was one of the first places in the county to introduce the measures (Image: Matthew Usher)

But critics have argued this is "not the silver bullet" needed and that it can cause further problems for the housing market.

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Mr Parish, whose ward of Heacham has implemented these rules into its neighbourhood plan, said: "It goes against moral judgement if land is lost to make way for new housing for them only to become second homes.

"The crisis is about people needing a first home, not a second.

"I encourage all parish councils who think they have sufficient second homes to object to new developments which may encourage more."

Eastern Daily Press: Councillor Terry Parrish, leader of West Norfolk CouncilCouncillor Terry Parrish, leader of West Norfolk Council (Image: BCKLWN)

The issue came into focus in Brancaster this month, after a new housing development received objections from locals who feared they would likely be snapped up by out-of-towners.

But without any restrictions in the neighbourhood plan, it was ultimately approved by West Norfolk Council.

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Heacham was one of the first authorities in Norfolk to put a 'principal residence' condition in place, which has since been replicated by nearby Sedgeford and Blakeney, in north Norfolk.

Wells has also put similar rules in its draft neighbourhood plan, which is yet to be approved.

Eastern Daily Press: Wells is considering implementing similar rulesWells is considering implementing similar rules (Image: DENISE BRADLEY)

Mr Parish acknowledged the rules rely on "people being honest" and for neighbours to come forward if they think contracts have been broken.

The council leader hopes other communities impacted by second homes could follow suit and he has also proposed the 'principal residence' condition measure should be implemented on a district level in west Norfolk.

But for Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk Council - another area blighted by the impact of second homes - the move can cause a negative impact by driving the prices of older homes up.

He said: "We are fully in support of communities like Blakeney that want to put these conditions in place but in my view it is not the silver bullet needed.

"The problem is if you put restrictions on new housing stock you find it inflates the cost of existing homes.

"We are keen to learn from what has happened elsewhere but from what we have seen it hasn't worked."

Eastern Daily Press: Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk CouncilTim Adams, leader of North Norfolk Council (Image: North Norfolk Council)

Mr Adams highlighted the experience of St Ives in Cornwall, which introduced 'principle residence' conditions in 2016.

But three years on, a study by the London School of Economics (LSE) says it just made matters worse by reducing the number of available properties, switching demand from new-build to existing properties and driving prices up still further.

Instead, Mr Adams supports the introduction of the extra levy on second homes which would allow for local authorities to double their council tax bills - legislation which is expected to come into force in 2025.

It is hoped the extra money raised by the levy could be pumped into providing affordable homes by increasing the funds available for parish and district councils.

But others argue that it may do little to dissuade wealthy second homeowners who will be able to afford the increased costs and there are fears it may fail to tackle the proliferation of Airbnb lets in Norfolk.