Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Planning permission should be secured before a regular house can be turned into a holiday home, national park bosses have argued amid claims that existing policies have created “a social wasteland in our communities.”
Members of the Snowdonia National Park Authority – with covers parts of both Gwynedd and Conwy – have backed a motion calling on the Welsh Government to intervene due to skyrocketing house prices, particularly over recent months.
Though not the first time a public body has urged such action – with both Anglesey and Gwynedd Councils having made public their wish for national lesgislation to tackle the growing number of second homes – it adds more voices to ever growing calls.
Cllr Elwyn Edwards, who sits both on the National Park Authority and Gwynedd Council as a representative for Llandderfel, said: “This has been a problem here for decades that has been long ignored by government.
“There are a lot of newly built houses being used as second homes and the current policies have created a social wasteland in our communities with schools, chapels and shops being closed and the Welsh language decreasing from census to census.”
According to the Office of National Statistics, there was an increase in value of 3.6% in the housing market in Wales between July 2019 and June 2020, the largest increase in the whole of the UK.
But with the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in more people than ever working from home and increasing house prices even further, the park authority argues that the use of properties as holiday lets by businesses means that the housing stock available to local people is also dwindling.
The motion noted the park’s calls on ministers to legislate on the number of houses that are being bought as second homes by implementing the need for planning permission before a property can be be designated such change of use.
Recent figures by the Principality Building Society showed that house prices in Gwynedd rose at the highest rate across Wales this summer, reaching a new peak average of £198,279.
With prices in the county rising both annually (8.1%) and quarterly (14.6%), the cost of a detached home shot up from an average of £250,000 during the second quarter of 2020 to £280,000 during the third.
Gwynedd Council recently commissioned and approved a research paper which recommended changes to national legislation meaning that planning permission would be required to change an ordinary property to short-term holiday let accommodation or a second home.
The paper, approved by the cabinet last week and sent to the Welsh Government, also calls for changes to the Local Government Finance Act so that any property that is not the owner’s main or sole residence continues to pay domestic rates and any council tax premium in place.
Housing Minister Julie James confirmed this week that she plans to make a statement to the Senedd in January outlining how the Government intends to act on the issue of housing in rural and tourist areas.