Calls for luxury caravan and chalet owners to pay council tax
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Owners of luxury caravans and chalets at Welsh holiday parks should be subject to paying council tax rates in the same way as home owners, a Gwynedd Councillor has claimed.
A debate on Gwynedd’s setting of the council tax premium sparked the claims following a suggestion that some luxury and even lower end static caravans at such parks can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy.
While once a summer preserve, recent years have seen a flurry of applications to open such parks all year round amid changing holiday patterns.
Yet while their owners usually pay the parks an annual fee of several thousands of pounds, including a contribution to the overall business tax bill, Cllr John Brynmor Hughes believes that existing regulations should be amended and that their owners should contribute more to council coffers and be themselves liable.
Having spoken against the rising of the premium levied on second and empty homes in Gwynedd – which was raised to 100% last April – he compared some of the higher end chalets and static caravans to homes in their own right.
Speaking during last week’s full council meeting Cllr Hughes, an independent member for Llanengan, said: “As you know I’m against the 50% and 100% (second home premiums), in my view a house is a house and every house should pay tax based whatever band they’re in.
“I wouldn’t like to know how much we’ve lost in this area (due to transfers to non-domestic rates), but one thing I’d like to say is where we’re losing out most is the caravan parks.
“A caravan, even a tourer these days is like a bungalow, they have bedrooms in them and are huge, but they’re barely paying any tax.
“We have caravan parks open all year round, they’re not paying at all.
“Say a chalet on the Warren (in Abersoch), I’ll name it, can cost between half a million and a million pounds yet pay £100 in tax, its a joke.
“We are losing taxes here yet they use our roads, dispose of their rubbish, they use the public toilets and everything a house would use. I think that we’re losing there.
“When you go abroad you have the tourist tax. I’m against the 100% (premium), I always have been, but I think we’re losing out especially during the pandemic when caravan parks are springing up everywhere.
“I would suggest we look at this again and pursue the caravans.”
Hosting 500 lodges and caravans as well as access to a local beach, a previous planning restriction meant the Warren had to close for around six weeks a year – between mid-January and the 1st of March.
‘Open all year’
But last year it was given planning permission to open all year round after satisfying strict measures to ensure that the caravans and lodges are purely used for holiday purposes – preventing people from using them as permanent homes – while paying council tax at their main residences.
A statement supporting their successful application, stated: “An all year round holiday season provides financial revenue benefits to the local economy, with holidaymakers supporting local trades and businesses in the surrounding area during the off peak period.”
The Warren has been approached to respond to Cllr Hughes’ comments, but a spokesman for Gwynedd Council said that most such sites were taxed as a single unit.
“By virtue of the Non-Domestic Rating (Caravan Sites) Regulations 1990, holiday parks that are deemed to fall within the legal definition of a ‘caravan site’, that include some property which is not domestic, and have an area of 400 square yards or more, are generally considered to be one taxable unit on the non-domestic rating list,” they added.
“In these cases the site operators will be liable for paying the non-domestic rates and it is a matter for them if their annual maintenance charge to individual caravan owners then contains an element of recharge for the rates.”
Meanwhile, the full council voted to retain the second home and long term empty property premium at 100% for 2022/23, resulting in their owners paying double the usual council tax.
This was despite claims from another independent, Cllr Dilwyn Lloyd, that the empty home premium was proving problematic for some locals.
“I’ve had some phone calls from people who inherited houses from deceased relatives, leaving them with two council tax bills to pay – one of them being double.
“These people aren’t well off, just coming into a home, which is a problem.
But Tywyn independent councillor, Mike Stevens, said in response: “It concerns me we’re always behind the curve here and playing catch up on people buying second homes and flipping them into businesses.
“There doesn’t seem to be enough policing, we do seem to have massive issues here.”
He added: “Regarding empty homes, with all due respect if you’ve inherited a home you have two options, you either sell it or rent it out.
“People who just want to leave them sitting there for years and years, you can’t do that, and I know down here in south Meirionnydd we have a number of houses that have stood empty for years and years.”
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