Carmarthenshire sees surge in applications for holiday lets
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
From shepherd’s huts to chalets, glamping pods to holiday lets, farmers and householders in Carmarthenshire are trying to benefit from the growth of tourism in West Wales.
In just one week, five tourism planning applications have been submitted to the council – and decisions on three other schemes have been made, although two were turned down.
Tourism isn’t new in Wales but its profile and demand have increased since Covid restricted overseas travel.
According to the Welsh Government, £6 billion was spent on tourism trips in Wales in 2019, before the pandemic hit. And around 14% of Wales’s 34,000 farms now having some form of tourism element, mainly self-catering.
Suzy Davies, chairwoman of representative body Wales Tourism Alliance, said the sector was one of the country’s biggest direct and indirect employers. “It is quite a big deal,” she said.
The small-scale schemes proposed in Carmarthenshire over the course of a week include three shepherd’s huts at Beili Glas farm, north of Whitemill, between Carmarthen and Llandeilo, as part of a new venture called Copper Hill Huts.
It would be a diversification for the owners, according to a business plan submitted to the planning department, which could help sustain the dairy and beef farm’s long-term viability.
The huts would provide year-round holiday accommodation and include a kitchen, en-suite bathroom, barbecue area, log burner and hot tub or copper bath.
Closer to Llandeilo, near the village of Cwmdu, three cabins are planned for year-round use by holiday-makers.
A design and access statement submitted on behalf of applicant Brett Sloman said the proposal would also benefit nearby businesses and create one full-time and one part-time job. The cabins, it said, would be spaced apart and have private decking.
“The idea for each cabin is to be as isolated as possible from others to give a true sense of peace and tranquillity,” it said.
In the north of the county, near Pencader, there are plans to convert a family tree house into a year-round holiday let. Market research on behalf of the applicants concluded the proposal was feasible and would meet demand.
Meanwhile, three glamping pods are planned at Birds Hill Farm, just over a mile from Llandeilo, as part of a diversification scheme.
And a new Airbnb holiday let has been proposed at Ystradowen, in the north-east of the county. It would require the demolition of an existing single-storey outbuilding at the New Road property.
In the same week as these applications were lodged, the council’s planning committee approved five shepherd’s huts at Abercorran Farm near Laugharne, on the south coast, with a number of conditions.
Planning officers turned down a proposal for five one and two-bed glamping pods at Blaenhiraeth Farm, Llangennech.
A separate application for three shepherd’s huts on land at Llandyfan, near Ammanford, was also rejected.
Stewart John, who owns Abercorran Farm with his wife Andrea, said he expected the shepherd’s huts approved by councillors would be ready in time for next year.
Abercorran Farm has also had three holiday cottages up and running for 14 years.
Mr John said the income from the diversification was crucial for his 18-acre farm, especially given rising agricultural costs.
“I wouldn’t be paying my mortgage without it,” he said.
Mrs Davies, of Wales Tourism Alliance, said she believed “under-served” counties like Carmarthenshire had the capacity to grow a thriving small business and micro-business tourism sector.
And doing so, she said, could potentially ease the strain from hotspots like St Davids, Pembrokeshire, and Snowdonia.
Mrs Davies said accommodation like shepherd’s huts and glamping pods did not take away existing residential properties from the reach of local people – a key concern of those worried about the rise in second homes and its effect on coastal and national park communities.
“They are not depriving someone else of a place to live,” she said. “They are locally-owned and locally-run. They have a secondary effect – the benefit for local maintenance and cleaning companies pubs and restaurants.”
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