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Planning director wants half of all developments within the Eryri National Park to be affordable homes for locals

20 Nov 2022 6 minute read
Eryri National Park.Photo by Llywelyn2000 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Siân Williams

The Director of Planning and Land Management for the Eryri National Park wants half of all developments within its 823 square miles to be affordable homes for locals.

Jonathan Cawley would also like to see the planning process include research- based evidence on who will be the potential occupants of new housing estates.

He told Nation.Cymru: “When a housing estate is developed, I don’t know who shall be living there and that’s the type of evidence we need. Are they local people? Are they people from outside? What is the percentage of Welsh speakers? Possibly, that’s where we need investment, but everyone’s short of money.”

Cawley says planners like himself don’t have much to go on, “There’s no research and I think we need that. It’s difficult to make robust decisions – perhaps refuse something on the grounds of impacting the language without the evidence. This is something we as a nation need, but I’m unsure if the resources are there. We have a Welsh language commissioner who could help, but I think we need permanent research on a local level on the effect of developments on the community.”

Costs

If planners, and indeed councillors, make decisions of the heart when it comes to granting, or refusing, planning applications, that would only lead to appeals and further costs.

Cawley explains further: “It’s very rare in Wales, I should think, where large developments are refused because of the language. It doesn’t happen to be honest. There are possibly two reasons for that. The positive one being, I hope, is when the Local Development Plans are strategically put together.

“That process does take language matters into consideration, which is a good thing. But the other, more negative side, is whether we have language-based evidence in order to make decisions?”

Eryri National Park Authority have just won a longstanding battle with Hampshire-based Hillside Parks Ltd. The developer wanted to build 401 luxury homes on a hill overlooking Aberdyfi.

Aberdyfi” by Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri – Snowdonia National Park is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Hillside, having lost their case both in the High Court and Court of Appeal had taken it all the way to The Supreme Court in London.

“That’s it now for Hillside I’m happy to say,” says Cawley. “They can’t build any more than the 41 houses they’ve already built without submitting a new planning application. And the development boundary in Aberdyfi now is quite strict.”

However, Eryri won the battle on a technicality because Hillside had deviated so far from the original planning permission.

It was nothing to do with the fact that locals didn’t want and couldn’t afford any of the 401 luxury homes.

Cawley won’t be drawn on the exact cost of fighting Hillside Parks through three layers of the justice system.

“It was very costly – much more than we had hoped. We hadn’t expected to go through three layers of courts. Firstly, we went to the High Court in Cardiff, then to the Court of Appeal in London when (Hillside) appealed the original decision. It was a bit of a shock when they appealed for the third time and we went to the Supreme Court in London.”

Substantial

According to Cawley, the legal costs are “substantial”, but “because we have now won the case, we are allowed to claim back our costs. Obviously, there were risks, had we lost they could have claimed their costs as well, and as an authority we don’t have much money.”

What are the major challenges that lie ahead now for Eryri National Park Authority over the coming years?

Cawley doesn’t hesitate: “Housing – that’s right up there. We have seen the major challenges communities face withing the park. That’s been the case for decades, but especially over the last couple of years. Covid has resulted in extra pressure and without a doubt there has been an increase in short term holiday lets. There are many more Airbnb’s around now.”

He says their “task” now is, “to ensure that local people can access affordable housing. It’s a difficult one, because developers don’t want to build affordable homes because they sell for much less.”

But as we now know, Cawley is up for the challenge and the goal withing the national park he says, is that half of all developments will be affordable homes for locals.

Changes

And there are significant changes afoot. Since October, Welsh Government have brought in a new subordinate legislation. Local Authorities can now classify homes as primary residence, second homes, or holiday lets. This means owners would need to get planning permission to change a property from a primary residence to a second home.

Cawley says he “welcomes” the new Welsh Government legislation, “It’s very important and it’s there to try and get control of the rural housing market, in a way.”

Eryri National Park Director of Planning and Land Management then goes on to explains how they will attempt to control the number of holiday homes within its 823 square miles.

“We are moving forward with what we call Article 4 Directive. This will obstruct people from having the right to move from one category to another without submitting a planning application. This is fairly significant if we are successful in moving ahead Article 4 withing the park.”

As regards the challenges ahead, Cawley confirms that the Article 4 Directive, which he and his team are currently working on, is indeed a game changer.

“It’s a good thing, but I’m afraid it doesn’t come with the help of additional resources. But we know perfectly well that communities want to see us do this, and I’m sure our members withing the park also want us to do this. I shall be presenting a paper to our members on this next month.”

Hillside Parks Ltd have been approached for comment.


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Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
5 days ago

Why half? Why not all? Why build unaffordable homes targeted at non-locals? Why not include enhanced taxes on 2nd homes and BTLs?
French and Saunders would “slam” that but so what?
We need to look after decent working people in Cymru. Nobody needs more than one home.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
5 days ago

Affordable means 80% of local average prices which in Snowdonia is £224,000 so an affordable price is £180,000. At anything like “normal wages” up there that is “unaffordable housing”.
What is required is social housing.

Argol fawr!
Argol fawr!
5 days ago

Define ‘working people?’ Even those of us living in affordable homes have aspirations to move up the housing ladder. So building 100% of them?

Last edited 5 days ago by Argol fawr!
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
5 days ago
Reply to  Argol fawr!

Don’t need to. It’s self evident. Aspirations of betterment are irrelevant here. People who grew up in Eryri and work in Eryri should be able to afford homes in Eryri. Not be a servant class who commutes in to serve the wealthy

boris
boris
5 days ago

Yes lets go back to the 1800’s when everyone in “Eryri” had a home and couldnt have any aspirations of betterment ( too tory for you i know) whilst killing themselves working the slate mines and dying young- Were they a servant class for the wealthy mine owners- o yes but at least they had a home to live in extreme poverty in. You socialist idealists make me laugh.

Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
5 days ago
Reply to  boris

Alright Saesneg. The quotation marks around Eryri and the reductio ad absurdum chaff which follows tells me everything I need to know about you. Raising some irrelevant tosh about the now defunct slate mines’ terrible working conditions adds nothing to the discussion.
Blydi Torygraph interns! Don’t you have an editor’s ring to kiss?
Oh and learn what a socialist IS and ISN’T you Blydi buffoon! Just because I’m not a Tory (like EVERY decent person) doesn’t make me a socialist. Learn about nuance. We don’t all fit in your poorly defined pigeonholes

Last edited 5 days ago by Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
SundanceKid
SundanceKid
3 days ago
Reply to  boris

That’s exactly what building non-affordable housing targeted at non-locals would achieve!

Of course locals also have aspirations to move up the housing ladder, but realistically what do you think a “luxury” home would cost?

We are probably looking in the region of around £700k as a starting point. “Luxury” apartments going in Abersoch are being marketed at £1.2 million!

How many second or even third-time local buyers could afford that?!

Argol fawr!
Argol fawr!
4 days ago

So your vision for Wales pretty much aligns with Lennin/Stalin’s Russia then. Ddim i fi diolch!

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
5 days ago

Some very interesting comments by someone who obviously has a political agenda – I would ask 1- how does he intend to get developers to build houses and then sell them at a loss to locals? 2. How can it be right that you can only sell houses to someone who speaks welsh? Everyone assumes it is English people who are the problem however 75% of people born and bred in Wales do not speak welsh- why is it right to exclude them from living in their own country? The Snowdonia National Park should get on with doing what they… Read more »

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
5 days ago

As long as incomers are willing to do without all the services that plebs who can’t afford to live there provide then you are totally right.

National Park Authorities are required (by law) to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities in the National Park.

If that upsets you, get thee to Westminster and change the law.

Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
Y Tywysog Lloegr a Moscow
5 days ago

What we should have is people with no political agenda like you, eh? 🙄

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
3 days ago

You will probably be disappointed to hear but in my Local Authority area, there are a number of schemes now where housing is being built specifically to target local families and first-time buyers.

There are also a number of shared equity options, S106 affordable housing, social housing and rent to buy schemes where you must register your interest before you are eligible to rent or buy.

So, in answer ro your question, it can and is being done.

As for Welsh speakers, only a proportion of these new homes in Eryri will be available only to Welsh speakers.

Last edited 3 days ago by SundanceKid
Aled Rees
Aled Rees
5 days ago

Well done Mr Cawley.Why not have only affordable housing applications granted for ten years then see where we are.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
5 days ago

Not Snowdonia………..and All!

LloydiaSerotina
LloydiaSerotina
5 days ago

A legacy of the slate mining industry is that many of the communities most affected by second homes / AirBnB etc. lie outside of the National Park’s boundaries. The people and landscape in these small valley communities are arguably some of the area’s most unique and special features. Is it time we consider affording these communities the additional protection that the National Park provides? Some would say that National Parks in Wales are equipped to protect the landscape and agricultural heritage, but are they equipped to protect the people who live here (y gwerin) the less well off quarrymen’s children… Read more »

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
4 days ago

Just a thought or two for this discussion. We should remember that these large building companies are very profitable. That they were willing to go through three levels of appeal suggests they have loads of cash to burn. There was a piece on Building firm profits in the Guardian (pre-covid) and the author looked at Persimon’s accounts if I recall correctly. The astonishing figure that emerged was that that Director’s bonuses spread cross the number of houses build amount to £30k per house. The other snippet from back then was in a building industry paper (forgotten which) but reported that… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
4 days ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Good comment there. Cost control is almost non existent as waste is a built in factor in the costing/pricing system especially among the big building companies. By applying better, rigorous material controls and build standards you can get a far more sensibly priced outcome. A real competitive market place at all levels of the housing market would also help. Today it’s a carve up so each developer is able to squeeze as much profit as they can out of each project.

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