Getting to know your neighbours?

Just when you think you have it all – finally you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of town and found the idyllic place to live; a village community and quiet rural life where you can relax, enjoy the garden, let the kids play outside and share cups of tea with your neighbours.

Perhaps Sunday mornings are spent washing the car and mowing the lawn, waiting for the dinner to cook or reading your favourite paper whilst sitting in your conservatory, planning the garden, just minding your own business.

And then a strange face appears at your window – tap, tap, tap. “I was wondering where the nearest petrol station is.”

How odd. Ahem and the three seconds it takes to assess if you trust this person seems to take a little longer. “Are you new around here?” “No I’m staying at No. 15”.

And you notice the strange car on the drive with suitcases emerging from the Tardis-like boot.

And then another vehicle parked on the grass verge, full of toys and belongings like someone who’s packed their whole life into a jam jar.

So you lift yourself out of your comfy chair to step outside “Oh, hello”, you say “Have you just moved in?”, with some vague recollection that your old neighbours seem to have been away for a little longer than you expected.

And you are just about to introduce yourself in that new friendly neighbourly way when they say; “Oh blimey no, we’re here on our holidays - me, wife, kids and my brother’s family”. “It’s not as nice as it looks in the brochure”, says another voice, emerging from behind. “I’m bored already”, shrieks some sulky black clad teenager, “Did we have to come here?”

And you find yourself agreeing with the genderless alien-type creature whose exploding starvation theory is akin to some poor African Nation.

This is pure fiction but perhaps not too far from your own experience. Whilst canvassing in a village suburb, admiring the tended gardens one couldn’t help but notice the ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ signs alongside the ‘No Salesmen Please’ and ‘Do Not Disturb’. Many people were at home, often alone, and were keen to share their pride in their community. And many people were not at home.

Houses locked up as if the residents had gone away for a holiday or a long stay with the family.

On one particular avenue of only 10 houses, one resident told us that four were holiday homes. “How do you find that?” we asked. “Well there’s always people coming and going. We don’t know who they are, different cars every other week. We try to keep an eye on them but mainly we just try to avoid them”.

I know my neighbours, their names, the cars they drive.

If I don’t see our neighbours out and about I knock on their doors.

I recognise the children playing footy in the street and know who their parents are.

I also know when it’s tourist season and I accept it because I live in a tourist destination town.

But, what if it’s not what you expect.

You choose to live in some outlying village or suburban estate for a quiet life.

And then without notice, without warning - without permission - your private space, safe family home, retirement retreat, tranquil neighbourhood is transformed into the “Benidorm” of the Yorkshire Coast.

Caravan parks and camping sites have on-site facilities with tourism information and tour guides.

Has the house next door to you now changed into a holiday lettings home and how do you know?

I am very keen to research the impact of this recent growth in uncontrolled holiday lettings and hear your views. Please write to me and perhaps answer the following questions.

Do you live in a residential area?

Do you want tourists as your neighbours?

Should owners need planning permission to turn their homes into a business enterprise? (At present no change if use requirement).

If they receive Business Tax Allowances for running a business do you think they should pay business rates?

Should all holiday lettings houses be registered with the local authority?

What restraints (if any) would you like to see in place for prospective holiday lettings landlords?

Vanda Inman, Donnington House, 13 Givendale Road, Scarborough, YO12 6LE by email