Licensing system needed to stem ‘alarming’ rise in second homes, says Plaid Cymru MP
A new licensing system should be introduced to stem the “alarming” increase of second homes and holiday lets in rural Wales.
The impassioned plea came from Liz Saville Roberts MP, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader who represents Dwyfor Meirionnydd, in a film shown in Channel 4’s Political Slot.
The party’s three-pronged policy for tackling the crisis also includes requiring Council Tax to be levied on all properties, with second homes no longer qualifying for business rates.
The approach would also require planning permission before homes could be converted into holiday lets.
She filmed outside a former chapel, Bethania, at Pistyll, near Nefyn, which local campaigners failed to save after it was put up for auction.
Auction House UK had advertised the property in Pistyll on the Llŷn peninsula as a “holiday home” in an advert that draws attention to its seaside position. Planning is already in place for a four-bedroom holiday home on the site.
They refused to allow a local community group enough time to raise money to buy the property which is also known as Capel Tom Nefyn Williams in memory of the poet and preacher.
"These communities are the cradle of the Welsh language's culture and heritage but they run the risk of becoming the leisure retreat of the privileged."
— Liz Saville Roberts AS/MP 🏴 (@LSRPlaid) August 4, 2021
Ms Saville Roberts said: “Capel Bethania here in Pistyll holds a special place in the hearts of the local community. It was built by the community itself.
“This historic chapel was recently sold for £257,000, complete with planning permission to turn it into a holiday let.
“Despite the tireless efforts of campaigners to keep it as an asset it will no longer play a role in the community that originally built it.
“House prices are rising at an alarming rate in communities all over Wales.
“The pandemic has played a part in this crisis – with people looking for an escape to the countryside from the cramped cities. With these beautiful views – who can blame them.
“But its impact on the people who make their lives here has reached breaking point.
“Average house prices in parts of Gwynedd are nearing £500,000. Yet, wages here are among the lowest in the UK.
“As a result, once vital Welsh-speaking communities are turning into a part-time playground for rich holidaymakers.
“This has now escalated to a point where communities face a collapse in the supply of housing. The demand for social housing outstrips supply.
“And the sheer volume of second homes and buy-to-let properties is pushing out local families.”
She added: “Unless it’s tackled, the crisis will leave in its wake a lost generation of young people forced to leave their square mile due to being priced out of the area in which they were born and raised.
“To resolve this crisis Plaid Cymru believes that the Welsh Government needs to make three important changes.
“Firstly, that all houses should pay Council Tax and second homes should no longer qualify for business rates.
“At a single stroke, this would bring extra funds into our communities.
“Secondly, you should need planning permission to turn homes into holiday lets.
“And finally, we need a licensing system to keep a balance on the type of properties in the community so that there are houses for local people to buy and rent.
“If something isn’t done about this crisis now , we may well see further depopulation and yet more of our young people leaving these area.
“Our villages will become clusters of empty boxes. Essential services in rural areas will become more and more to provide as key workers such as carers and teaching assistants simply cannot afford to live near enough to where they work.
“These communities are the cradle of the Welsh language’s culture and heritage, yet they run the risk of becoming the leisure retreat of the privileged.
“Everyone must have the right to live at home.”
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