The pretty seaside town where wealthy Londoners snap up second homes and ‘drive up property prices’
Weymouth is a photogenic part of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. In the photos, the sea shimmers turquoise against the city’s sandy beaches.
Colorful fishing boats float in the harbor and the bustling esplanade is lined with Georgian hotels, ice cream parlors and places to eat and drink.
At the junction of Weymouth’s two central streets there is an imposing statue of King George III, who popularized Weymouth as a seaside resort. Dressed in a garter robe, a scepter in his hand, he stands on a Portland stone pedestal.
READ MORE: The unjustly maligned seaside town with a mysterious hidden cave and several world-class restaurants just 90 minutes from London
“It’s a lovely place to live,” says Lesley Riley-Maynard, who is from Weymouth. “Lots of lovely walks, beaches and [they’re] all free. Good restaurants and more.”
Jeanette Blacker moved to Weymouth from Bedfordshire seven years ago and agrees: “I can honestly say there’s nothing I don’t like about Weymouth.
“Lots of live music (free), beautiful harbour, wonderful beaches. [There are] so many places for great walks and it’s only a short drive to many more beautiful places. I can’t imagine a better place to live.”
Perhaps it is for these reasons that Weymouth is so often listed as one of the best places to live in the UK. Last year, for example, a Google search history analysis found Weymouth to be the 10th most desirable location in the UK for second homes.
According to board data, Weymouth’s population has been increasing since 2013, influenced in part by its role in the 2012 Olympics as a base for sailing events.
The city’s growth has been encouraged by the council, which in 2015 launched plans to regenerate downtown, stimulate economic growth and build new housing to accommodate a growing population.
Development in Weymouth is still ongoing – last year, for example, a new £120million housing project began building 500 new homes.
Alexa Tilley moved to Weymouth from Putney, south-west London, in 2013 after her husband was offered a job in nearby Poundbury.
After convincing her employers to let her work remotely, Alexa jumped at the chance to “live in this beautiful part of the world.”
“First and foremost is the natural beauty of the area,” says Alexa. “It’s the coastal side… now I can’t imagine not being by the sea. I really got into wild swimming – being able to do it right on your doorstep is awesome.”
She adds: “We have two young children – two boys – and it’s nice for them to live in a place where we can have all these adventures. There’s a lot to see and do.”
Alexa praises the coastal walks, the countryside, the region’s emerging food scene. She is also enchanted by the harbour, with its lively atmosphere and colorful fishing boats.
“The absolute jewel in Weymouth’s crown is Weymouth Harbor…I could stare at it all day if I had nothing to do,” she says.
Having lived in London all her life, the capital had felt like home to Alexa – and she had never visited Weymouth before moving there.
“Now I feel like Weymouth is home, and I can’t see us moving because we love it here so much.”
After almost a decade of living in the area, Alexa says there are signs of change.
She highlights the development of the city and the growing popularity of the area during the pandemic, as Londoners and residents of other cities have moved to the countryside.
“I’ve seen a lot of development…property development, people investing in the area. It’s definitely increased massively over the last 10 years. The more that’s happening, I think we’re at a tipping point where it’s going to change a bit,” says Alexa, who sees growth as a positive thing.
“It just feels like the trend is up now – people are enjoying it more, seeing what it has to offer, and it’s really good for the area.”
David Franklin, who has lived in Weymouth for 45 years, also supports further development, saying current efforts to prevent economic decline in Weymouth and other seaside locations have not gone far enough.
He says: “The 2012 Olympics brought a lot of new investment from government and lottery funds, but the legacy of that never came close to what had been hoped for.”
He adds that the supply of housing does not match the opportunities equally: “Yes, there have been hundreds of new houses built, but it is not clear how or where everyone works or how they earn their living” .
Admittedly, the expansion has led to higher real estate prices. According to Zoopla, the current average value of properties in Weymouth is £300,382, an increase of 18.9% (£47,749) over the last five years.
By comparison, property prices in London have increased by 10% over this period.
Gemma Hounsell, who has lived in Weymouth for 38 years, says rising property prices are driving people out of the area. “It’s sadly becoming a city of two halves: the people who can afford to live here and those who can’t,” she says, pointing to friends who have had to leave town.
“As people leave cities and towns, the evolution of house prices [here] is phenomenal… second home ownership and Airbnb is a huge problem in Weymouth, both driving up the cost of properties and losing suitable rental properties.”
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Home ownership of second homes by Londoners and beyond has been a matter of controversy all along the Dorset coastline.
But Weymouth has the advantage of having geographical space for development, as local councilor Brian Larcombe from nearby Lyme Regis points out.
Either way, Alexa is keen to publicize Weymouth – but others prefer to keep its charms a secret.
Weymouth resident Kirstine Taylor says: ‘We don’t want anyone in London to know how great this is!
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