ESTATE agents in Winchester have seen a sharp increase in the number of people from London seeking to flee the capital to move to the local area since the coronavirus crisis.

Londoners have been seeking to let large rural houses in the countryside, away from settlements.

Their actions are in direct opposition to Government advice which instructs people to stay at home.

The exodus has angered Winchester MP Steve Brine, who told the Chronicle: “I really don’t know which part of ‘stay home’ some people are struggling to understand. It is not OK to have a Covid holiday at your second home and it is not OK to retreat from London to an expensive house let in Hampshire. Anyone who suspects behaviour contrary to the rules should call 101.”

The Chronicle contacted estate agents involved in the letting of large country houses.

Suzanne Diamond, lettings director of Charters, which has offices in Winchester and Alresford, said of the increased demand: “All our offices have noticed this. There are a lot of people, predominantly families, wanting rural properties and substantial ones, rather than in centres.

“All are wanting to move quickly. We had someone come down, offer on a property, and take the keys to move in the next day. They have said it is because of the (coronavirus) situation and wanting somewhere that they believe is safer.

“They want isolated country homes, without neighbours without anybody too close. It feels safer.”

Ms Diamond said the type of people was across the board but with “probably a higher percentage in the financial sector.”

Another agent, who asked not to be named, confirmed the same thing. Other agents did not return the Chronicle’s messages and emails.

The guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport states: “Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays.

“People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”