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Ghost towns and ‘not very nice people’ discussed during second-homes debate

12 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Aberdyfi. Image: Google Maps

Dale Spridgeon Local Democracy Reporter

A recent debate around a council’s second-home tax premium led to discussions around young people having to move across the border for employment and “not very nice people” coming to the area.

Members of Cyngor Gwynedd raised concerns about coastal ghost towns, businesses in decline and people who “understood our way of living” not returning due to the second home premium.

The comments were made during a debate about the premium for the next financial year, with councillors agreeing to keep the rate at 150% for second homes and 100% for long-term vacant houses.

Impacts being felt

There are 500 fewer second homes subject to the council tax premium in Gwynedd compared to a year ago, with more homes moving back into the council tax system.

But the meeting heard there was “not enough data” to say if the effects were due to the premium itself.

A total of 43 councillors voted in favour to keep the rates the same, while four abstained and three voted against. During discussions, Councillor Dewi Owen called for detailed information about the premium’s impact on coastal areas like Aberdyfi.

He said: “I have five shops and cafés for sale.

“What the English say is ‘you don’t want us here, so we are not coming’.

“It is sad when a business owner comes to me as a local councillor and says can you or Gwynedd help me?

“Look at Pwllheli, what is happening there, a lot of coastal villages are like ghost towns, people still come in droves in the summer but they don’t shop locally, they depend on Tesco bringing their food.

“Isn’t that sad for local communities trying to make a living?

“We need to look after our village businesses.”

Cllr John Brynmor Hughes was “pleased” the premium would remain at 150% but said the tax’s impact on Abersoch had been “very sad”.

He said: “We’ve lost people, grandparents who have come here, children who have inherited houses, they can’t afford to stay here, they sell up and move.

“They understood our language, our way of living, support our shops, the people coming now are not very nice. There has been a big change.

“They don’t understand our way of life, they don’t shop in our shops, eat in our restaurants, pubs or cafés, it has a huge impact.

“I have a friend coming to Nefyn for 70 years, he inherited a house from his father and grandfather, he says ‘I can’t afford to pay this council tax premium,’ he has had to go, he’s not the only one.”

Quiet businesses

Cllr Angela Russell said many pubs were open half of the week in Pen Llŷn.

She said: “It’s really sad when they have been so busy – it won’t be long before they close.

“Five hundred fewer houses?

“What does the figure have to be before alarm bells sound? We don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Cllr Anwen Davies said it was “heartbreaking” that young people had to go over the border for employment.

“What’s left for local people, if tourism slows down with the taxing of second homes,” she said.

Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Craig ab Iago, “struggled” to believe 3,214 people had transferred to the council tax system and queried resources to investigate those who played the system.

He also refuted “the narrative of the goose that laid golden egg of tourism,” saying: “Gwynedd is about more than tourism.”

Cllr Elin Walker Jones added: “We have to be sure everyone has a home, that second homes are not second homes, but for people to live in.”

Cllr Richard Glyn Roberts asked how many holiday homes had become permanent residences and if locals had bought them.

Head of finance Dewi Morgan Dew replied: “We don’t have that sort of profile – we have an idea of trends, but that info is not available yet.”

 


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Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
7 months ago

“They understood our language” – erm no. They don’t understand Cymraeg.
“We don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.” – the claqssic misunderstanding about tourism. If it’s so great, then why is west Wales so poor? Extractive economy.

TomTom82
TomTom82
6 months ago
Reply to  Rhufawn Jones

Do you really need somebody to explain to you the benefits and importance of tourism in Wales? I mean, do you have any idea how much of our economy is dependent on tourists? I doubt it. A 5 minute research window would give you better understanding of the topic than you possess now. The fact 8 people liked your comment makes me shake my head in shame.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
6 months ago
Reply to  TomTom82

Has it occurred to you that there might be better ways to earn a living than from sh!tty tourism? As Rhufawn Jones pointed out tourism is extractive.

Karl
Karl
6 months ago
Reply to  TomTom82

It’s tiny part of our economy. And second homes is not tourism.its destroying local communities. There is little need to invest in facilities all Yr due to the ghost town effect. It drives prices up so kids can’t buy houses and diminishes our language and culture.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  TomTom82

Tourism is responsible for 4% of Wales’ GDP. That indicates exactly how important it is.

Steve
Steve
7 months ago

Playing around with council tax premiums has created uncertainty and confusion. Local economies develop their own ecosystems with many stakeholders. Many coastal towns in Cymru provide employment (albeit typically lower paid employment) in the tourist industry. I own a ‘second’ home in Aberaeron and have a full-time job in Aberystwyth (with a contract that requires me to live within a 20 mile radius of work). My family home is in South Wales (I have no intention of uprooting my family). Changing the ecosystem may adversely affect the local economy. Other than raising revenue for local authorities can someone tell me… Read more »

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

It was an ill-though-out tax and simply a knee-jerk reaction to a a very complex situation.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve

So you’ve got three homes while many have no home and yet you begrudge paying appropriate taxes so that councils can build more social housing, bit greedy in my opinion.

TomTom82
TomTom82
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve

It won’t help young people. At all. It’s all about being seen to be doing something, even if it is stupid.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve

I would have thought that if you have a contract job in Aberystwyth and therefore you have a house in Aberaeron to access the job that that would be your 1st house as you would be living there for most of the week,
Your family lives in South Wales which will be their house.
When the contract ends you would then no longer need to live in Aberaeron and you
would then sell that house if you want to return to South Wales.

What’s the problem?

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
6 months ago

Since when does tourism and second home ownership enrich the average individual or the community? At best it gives locals a few low paid seasonal jobs at worst it robs the community of homes, businesses, language and community.
Is this the best councils can do with regard to job creation?

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
6 months ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Tourism and second homes are different things. We’re all tourists somewhere, but very few of us are second home owners.
Tourism isn’t a problem by itself, the problem is a lack of industry and commerce. Tourism alone is not enough.
At least Gwynedd isn’t like Blaenau Gwent, which has no industry and no tourists either

ben
ben
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard Thomas

It a very difficult problem. Without tourism many areas would have very little in the way of employment and the kids would still have to travel to make a living. This is not a particularly Welsh thing. It exists across the UK. What is different is the hollowing out of a language / culture. What is needed is a rounded plan for local jobs and I’m pretty sure tourism will have to play a large part as historic industries have declined or disappeared. Tourism is not in itself an enemy and should be embraced but at the same time managed.… Read more »

TomTom82
TomTom82
6 months ago

Cyngor Gwynedd is living proof the lunatics are running the asylum. These people rejected the expansion of Pwllheli marina, something that would have created 600 jobs. They want to up council tax for tourists to 300% and want to impose a separate tourist tax. It’s called sustainable tourism, whatever that means. Cyngor Gwynedd’ answer is to knock the English down, punish the haves instead of helping us, the have nots. I know it’s baffling to the terminally stupid, but here’s a simple idea; A one year building without planning amnesty. Allow people (Welsh first time builders) the right to build… Read more »

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
6 months ago
Reply to  TomTom82

Since when has a Marina anywhere in the world created 600 Jobs.
What is needed in Cymru are sustainable well paid all year round jobs.Tourism may bring some benefits but as for large numbers of all year round well paid jobs then the answer is no.

topmum
topmum
6 months ago

It seems the good councillors of Gwynedd have not heard the business saying … LESS IS MORE!! When the counties encouragement for Industry, and hence decent wages, is so low they need to encourage people into the area to spend their money NOT discourage them by the imposition of 2nd home and tourist taxes which will simply encourage them to spend elsewhere.
Councillors would do well to remember that GREED is not an attractive quality, yet it is one that many of us think they regularly exhibit.

Nathan
Nathan
6 months ago

‘Okay Google, define “Irony””. Reaping what they sow. You wanted them gone, they’re gone. Now, what was your plan after that?

Nemesis
Nemesis
6 months ago

Clearly councils don’t understand the free market or economics. It was locals cashing in by selling up at market rates (the free market in action) and moving away. It’s not rocket science, if you push the paying punters away the money doesn’t flow with a domino effect on the community . I live in mid Wales and a Welsh colleague sold up here in Powys sold his home and his parents inherited house too and moved to Sussex. He says wild horses wouldn’t drag him back to Wales under any circumstances. In his own words the WA have spent 20… Read more »

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  Nemesis

Clearly your education doesn’t stretch to a clear awareness of the country you live in and seem to be hyper-critical of. Cymru hasn’t had a Welsh Assembly since May 2020.

nemesis
nemesis
5 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Agreed but when Devolution started it was the Welsh assembly, I would add it is sad to see a brain drain of the best students but they just don’t have the choices offered by the bright light of bigger cities like Manchester , Birmingham or London. Just the the other day I had this discussion with one who wishes to pursue a career in architecture but living in a small village in mid Wales there is no other option than to move away.

Bob
Bob
6 months ago

While Wales has a govt that refuses to invest in decent infrastructure why would anyone invest in building new industries
That is why west walessin particular has no alternative

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