Coronavirus has highlighted the unfairness faced by our rural Welsh communities

Bae Trearddur ar Ynys Môn. Llun gan Phil Williams (CC BY-SA 2.0).

*English follows below*

Robat Idris, Cadeirydd, Grŵp Cymunedau, Cymdeithas yr Iaith

Go brin fod yr un ohonoch chi heb ryfeddu at yr agwedd Fi Fawr a welwyd yn ardaloedd twristaidd Cymru dros benwythnosau diweddar, pan heidiodd pobl yma i ddianc oddi wrth y firws corona. ‘Roedd yr adwaith gan wleidyddion lleol yn chwyrn – “peidiwch â dod yma i’n boddi a rhoi straen diangen ar ein Gwasanaeth Iechyd”.

Ond erbyn meddwl dydi hyn yn ddim byd ond cam rhesymegol yn y broses o weld Cymru fel lle i ddianc iddo, a gwedd arall ar y boddi diwylliannol ac ieithyddol a brysurodd yn ddiweddar. Gwelir ein gwlad fel chwaraele i eraill, a rôl y bobl leol yw hwyluso hynny.

Proses sydd wedi arwain at y sefyllfa druenus o ddiffyg argaeledd cartrefi i gymaint o bobl ein gwlad, yn enwedig pobl ifanc. Y drasiedi o weld cynifer o bentrefi gwyliau yn sgerbydau yn ystod y gaeaf. Y duedd i brynu tai gyda’r diben penodol o’u gosod ar gyfer Airbnb yn hytrach nag i bobl sy wir eu hangen – a hynny’n gwanhau ein cymunedau ac o ganlyniad yr iaith. Bellach, mae hyn yn digwydd mewn ardaloedd sydd heb fod yn ganolfannau twristaidd yn ogystal.

Mae ardaloedd gwledig Cymru wedi eu hesgeulso’n economaidd cyhyd fel bod yna groeso di-gwestiwn wedi ei roi i dwristiaeth, heb ystyried y goblygiadau. Mae twristiaeth gall wedi troi yn or-dwristiaeth, ac yn bygwth tanseilio’r union bethau y dylai twristiaeth gyfrifol eu cynnal, e.e. bywoliaeth resymol i’r rhai sy’n gweithio yn y diwydiant, gwasanaethau lleol digonol, parch i’r amgylchedd (sy’n cynnwys yr iaith wrth gwrs!). Ac o ganlyniad mae mwy a mwy o dai a busnesau lleol yn cael eu perchnogi gan bobl o’r tu allan. Felly dydi’r elw ddim yn aros yn lleol.

Mae’n hen bryd adfer y conglfeini a gollwyd fesul un dros y degawdau diwethaf yn ein pentrefi a’n trefi, sydd erbyn hyn wedi eu sigo gan or-dwristiaeth, ail gartrefi ac Airbnb. Newidiwch y rheolau ac mi fydd yn haws i’r bobl eu hunain wneud bywoliaeth a chael to uwch eu pennau. Ac mi fedran nhw sefyll ar eu traed eu hunain heb ddibynnu ar dwristiaeth yn unig.

Ac mae tai – neu ddiffyg tai – yn broblem fawr yn ein trefi a’n dinasoedd hefyd. Beth am fynd i’r afael go iawn â digartrefedd? Rydym wedi gweld yn ystod yr argyfwng hwn bod modd rhoi lloches i’r digartref yn ein dinasoedd fel mesur iechyd cyhoeddus – ond pam ddim gwneud hynny fel mesur dyngarol ar adeg ‘normal’?

 

Angenrheidiol

Mae Cymdeithas yr Iaith yn datblygu Siarter Tai Celtaidd mewn cydweithrediad â grwpiau ymgyrchu mewn llefydd eraill lle gwelir problemau tebyg – fel yr Alban a Chernyw. Y pwyslais fydd ar greu syniadaeth fydd yn cynnal cymunedau a chryfhau eu gwytnwch. Syniadau megis uchafswm o dai mewn ardal sy’n cael ymwneud â thwristiaeth/tai haf/ail gartrefi; adolygu trethiant a diwygio’r sustem gynllunio.

Os ydi’r aflwydd hwn o firws corona wedi gwneud un peth – dyma fo. Dangos fod ffyrdd gwahanol o wneud pethau’n bosib. Dangos mai ewyllys gwleidyddol sy’n cyfateb i ewyllys da’r mwyafrif llethol o bobl sydd ei angen.

Yn fwyaf sydyn, gwelsom ei fod yn bosib arallgyfeirio cwmnïau sy’n ymwneud â’r diwydiant rhyfel i gynhyrchu offer ar gyfer y Gwasanaeth Iechyd. Mae cwmnïau lleol fel M-Sparc yn medru cynhyrchu offer angenrheidiol hefyd – sy’n golygu fod caffael lleol yn hollol bosib, a hynny’n arwain at fudd yn lleol – a thu hwnt!

Yn yr un modd, mae’n bosib dychmygu ffyrdd newydd o ddarparu gwasanaethau drwy dechnoleg – pam na ellir rhoi hwb go iawn i ddysgu Cymraeg fel hyn? A dod â ni yn nes at y filiwn o siaradwyr.

Pam na wnawn ni fynnu bod ein llywodraethau yn Llundain a Chaerdydd yn sicrhau mai gwytnwch ein cymunedau – o ran iechyd, o ran diwylliant, o ran iaith, o ran economi, o ran amgylchedd – sydd bwysicaf yn y pendraw.

Mae’r argyfwng yma wedi dangos pa mor ddiffygiol fu’r paratoi. Mor hurt fu llymder. Mor ddifaol fu rhoi elw o flaen popeth.

Dyma ofynion Cymdeithas yr Iaith i Lywodraeth Cymru a Llywodraeth Llundain yn ystod y cyfnod argyfyngus hwn a thu hwnt:

  • Atal defnydd o dai haf a gosod tai drwy Airbnb tra bod y feirws yn dal yn berygl.
  • Sicrhau bod yr angen sylfaenol am dai i bobl leol yn dod o flaen tai i ymwelwyr, p’run ai i’w gosod neu fel ail gartrefi.
  • Gosod uchafswm ar y canran o dai mewn ardal sy’n gallu cael eu defnyddio fel ail gartrefi neu dai haf.
  • Cau bylchau yn y gyfraith sy’n galluogi perchnogwyr ail dai i gofrestru fel busnesau er mwyn osgoi trethi cyngor uwch.
  • Sicrhau bod gan bob cymuned, ym mhob rhan o’r wlad, fynediad at wasanaethau meddygol safonol a chyflawn, gan gynnwys adfer gwasanaethau ysbytai a rhoi mwy o adnoddau i’r gwasanaeth iechyd.
  • Ehangu’r defnydd o gwmnïau lleol i ddarparu cyfarpar a gwasanaethau i ymladd yr haint a’i effeithiau; ac ymhob maes posib arall.
  • Manteisio ar awydd pobl i ddysgu Cymraeg tra bod rhagor o amser rhydd gan nifer drwy ariannu a hyrwyddo dulliau ar-lein.

Yn y bon, os nad ydym yn defnyddio adnoddau ariannol y Wladwriaeth er budd pobl, nid er budd cyfalaf, yna fydd ein cymunedau’n parhau i ddioddef yn yr argyfwng hwn, ac yn y dyfodol. Rhaid cydnabod bod niwed aruthrol wedi ei wneud dros ddegawdau, a bod pobl eisiau i’w cymunedau ffynnu, yn lle bod dan warchae o hyd. Dylid adeiladu ein cymunedau ar sylfeini cadarn o wytnwch, gyda’r gallu i wrthsefyll yr argfywng hwn a’r un nesaf.

Gallwn, ac mae’n rhaid i ni, adeiladu’r cymunedau hynny gyda’n gilydd.


Abersoch. Picture by Ken Doerr (CC BY 2.0)

Robat Idris, Chair, Grŵp Cymunedau / Communities Group, Cymdeithas yr Iaith

It’s unlikely that any of you were amazed at the ‘Me First’ attitude we witnessed in the tourist areas of Wales over recent weekends, when people flocked here to escape the coronavirus. The reaction from local politicians was fierce – “don’t come here to overwhelm us and put unnecessary strain on our Health Service”.

But of course – it’s only a logical step in the process of seeing Wales as a place to escape, and another facet of the cultural and linguistic meltdown that has recently taken place. Our country is seen as a playground for others, and it is the role of local people to facilitate that.

A process that has led to the pitiful lack of availability of homes for so many people in our country, especially young people. The tragedy of seeing so many holiday villages standing like ghost towns throughout the winter. The tendency to buy houses with the sole purpose of letting them for Airbnb rather than for people who really need them – which weakens our communities and consequently the language. This is now happening in other areas that are experiencing tourism for the first time as well.

Rural areas of Wales have been economically neglected for so long that tourism has been given an unquestioned welcome, without considering the implications. Tourism has turned into hyper-tourism, and threatens to undermine exactly what responsible tourism should do – for example, a real living wage for those working in the industry, adequate local services, respect for the environment (which includes the language of course!). As a result, more and more local houses and businesses are owned by outsiders. So the profits don’t stay local.

It’s high time to restore the cornerstones that have been lost one by one over the last few decades in our villages and towns, which are now inundated with hyper-tourism, second homes and Airbnb. Change the rules and it will be easier for the people themselves to make a living and have a roof over their heads. And they can stand on their own two feet without relying solely on tourism.

And housing – or the lack of it – is a significant problem in our towns and cities too. Why can we not seriously tackle homelessness? We have seen in this crisis that the homeless in our cities can be sheltered as a public health measure – but why not do it as a humanitarian measure at a ‘normal’ time?

 

Goodwill

Cymdeithas yr Iaith are developing a Celtic Housing Charter in cooperation with other campaign groups elsewhere where similar problems are encountered – such as Scotland and Cornwall. The emphasis will be on creating a system of principles that will sustain communities and strengthen their resilience. This includes ideas such as a maximum number of houses in an area that may be used for tourism and holiday or second homes; reviewing local taxation and reform of the planning system.

If the coronavirus crisis has shown one thing, it is this: that there are different ways of doing things. It has shown that what’s needed is political will that responds to the goodwill of the vast majority of people.

Suddenly, we have seen that it was possible to diversify companies involved in the war industry to produce equipment for the NHS. Local companies such as M-Sparc are also able to produce the necessary equipment – meaning that local procurement is entirely possible, leading to benefit for local communities, and beyond.

Equally, it is possible to imagine new ways of delivering services through technology – why can’t learning Welsh in this way be given a real boost? And bring us closer to the one million speakers.

Why shouldn’t we insist that our governments in London and Cardiff ensure that the resilience of our communities – in terms of health, culture, language, economy, the environment – is ultimately the most important consideration.

This crisis has revealed how flawed our preparation was. How unjustifiable austerity has been. How devastating it has been to put profit before everything else.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith calls on the Welsh Government and UK Government to act upon the following during this critical period, and over the longer term:

  • Ban the use of holiday homes and letting properties through Airbnb while the virus is still a danger.
  • Ensure that the basic need for housing for local people is met before housing for visitors, whether as holiday lets or as second homes.
  • Set a limit on the percentage of houses in an area that can be used as second or holiday homes.
  • Close loopholes that allow second home owners to register as businesses to avoid higher council taxes.
  • Ensure that every community, throughout the country, has access to full, high quality medical services, including restoring hospital services and better resourcing the health service.
  • Expand the use of local companies to provide equipment and services to tackle the pandemic and its effects; and in all other possible fields.
  • Take advantage of people’s desire to learn Welsh while many have more free time by funding and promoting online methods.

Ultimately, unless we use the financial resources of the state for the benefit of people, not for the benefit of capital, then our communities will continue to suffer in this crisis, and beyond. We must recognise that tremendous damage has been done over the decades, and that people want their communities to thrive, not to be constantly under siege. Our communities should be built on solid foundations of resilience, able to survive this crisis and the next.

We can, and we must, build those communities together.

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SaisLyn RobertsWrexhamianj humphrysErnie The Smallholder Recent comment authors
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Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

Airbnb have also trashed the traditional experience of B&B. Traditionally, B&B has involved staying with a local family in their home helping them earn a living while providing the opportunity for guests to meet local people rooted in the area. The B&Bs were regulated by local tourist boards so people knew the standards and it wasn’t a tax dodge. Airbnb have polluted this idea degrading it to purely an economic transaction, where you will be lucky if the owners live in the same country, let alone in the same property. There is a difference between local people such as farmers… Read more »

Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

A really good point here about the contrast between AirBnB and traditional b&b where you didn’t just visit the property but you met and often ate with the family.
How you would frame legislation to revert to this earlier model is a tricky one.

Ann Owen
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Ann Owen

Jonathan Gammond – “very inconvenient to live in some valley in the middle of nowhere in Ceredigion” or rural Wales?? Depends doesn’t it on where the work is? Work doesn’t mean that people have to work in Cardiff, or Bristol or major conurbations. Work could be in the community or town down the road – we should certainly aim to increase work in our rural communities, especially if we get the long-promised and awaited South Korean internet sppeds (a la Skates circa 2013/14!)! Wales is a small country and no “middle of nowhere” is very far from e.g. towns that… Read more »

Neil Anderson
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Neil Anderson

Diolch, Robat. There are two, albeit radical steps that an independent Cymru could and should take to remedy both the housing and rural depopulation problems you identify. 1. To permit Welsh land to be owned only by residents of Cymru 2. To nationalise all land in parcels of more than 1 hectare. The first could still allow holiday homes to be leased by non-residents, but the capital gains would remain in Cymru. And more homes would become available at affordable cost, as this policy would depress the market. The second would first, allow state participation in the recovery and maintenance… Read more »

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Drop the pot and leading mankind, and it’s a good post. Interesting.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Read Jac ‘o The North this week, with Leslie Griffith’s attack on Welsh farmers.
Everyone should know about this war against our small and large farmers
sneakily snuck-in while we all worry about covid! Please look.

Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

” . . . move away from the moneygrubbery that disgraces much modern commerce and modern life.” What planet are you on? Making a profit means you can pay wages, taxes, suppliers etc etc. This ‘planned economy’ waffle has been tried numerous times and fails. It leads to corruption, totalitarianism and the desire of large numbers of the population to leave (for capitalist pastures new) from which they have to be forcibly prevented. Learn you history before writing this sentimental waffle.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

If it took Covid-19 to highlight the predicament of rural Welsh communities then you have led a pretty insensitive life thus far. Rural Wales has been abused, scorned, neglected for decades with the flaky Bay cliques showing attitudes no better than the grim opportunists of City of London/ Westminster/Whitehall. A low cost playground for “hard working people” in other words those who think “Me First, Second Third and Last”. A place from which to extract low cost food. A place where one can acquire a (relatively) low cost second home yet perversely drive them out of the reach of low… Read more »

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Some turd too me uptick away, so here’s 2!

Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

Largely correct. 2nd home owners are only able to acquire their property because ‘money grubbing’ Welsh owners are happy to sell to foreign highest bidders not locals with less cash.

Jacobe
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Jacobe

Well identified ‘Me First’ attitude of those who visit our rural areas. I wonder at what point and whether there is legal scope to define the actions of those who break the law to come to their second homes in rural Wales a hate crime? The fines are obviously no deterrent to people with the means to pay, but a criminal record and potential custodial sentence will no doubt be sufficient to put off those who wish not to blot their copy book. Such individuals obviously have disdain for those who live, reside and work within our rural communities on… Read more »

Sue Whelan
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Sue Whelan

I totally agree with everything you said, but you have left a couple of things out. Like why don’t we have a motorway from North to South without going into England first. Like why don’t we have a train service from North to South without going into England first. Why does all the money stay in the south? Why is great Western railway so called when it doesn’t go anywhere near the the west coast of Wales? Do we in the North not count?

Julie
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Julie

We need a couple of hospitals to cater for the communities, sending us over the borders to be forgotten about isn’t good enough

Sais
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Sais

Ia, a dylid dalu amdanynt allan o gyllid Llywodraeth Cymru. Mae llwyth o bobl o ogledd Cymru yn dod i Lannau’r Mersey i ddefnyddio ein hysbytai ni, a dydym ni ddim yn cwyno amdanynt, ond cyn gynted â bod unrhyw bosibilrwydd y byddai pobl Lloegr yn defnyddio GIG Cymru, rydych chi’n creu ffwdan enfawr amdano fo. Dw i ddim yn cefnogi tai haf, ond mae’r ymateb cryf en erbyn pobl sy’n hunan-ynysu yn eu tai haf yn y sefyllfa bresennol yn dangos mwy nag awgrymiad o wrth-Seisnigrwydd.

Wrexhamian
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Wrexhamian

Pob lwc i chi pan dach chi’n anfon y cynnigion hyn at Drakeford, Robat. I’ve always seen potential in the Jersey model of property-selling, detailed a number of times by ‘Finland’s own’ J Jumphreys. I think it goes as follows: locals get first choice of buying a vacnt home, at an affordable price. If no takers, then, and only then, is it advertised to outsiders at a ‘market’ (i.e. high) price. You may want to look into it and add it to the list.

Pasg Hapus, pawb.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Pasg Hapus i bawb yn Wrecsam a Cymru ( a Grovey musos.)

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

Diolch JH. Ydy Grovey Coleg Cambria rwan, ond mae gen i fy prefect’s tie and cap o hyd.

Sais
Guest
Sais

Dw i’n rhy hwyr i ddymuno i chi Pasg Hapus eleni, felly Pasg Hapus am y flwyddyn nesaf.

⬤ Wolf "Dr. Strange-bear" Baginski
Member

My part of rural England isn’t really a tourist destination, and has a lot of nearby industry, but I am old enough to remember the style of the old-days. A large village with a Post Office, bank branch, and 7 shops now just has a one-day-a week travelling post-office operation. There’s been about the same number of other local businesses vanished. I lived most of my life there, and I am glad I left. Where I live now there are a couple of shops, but as soon as COVID-19 struck, the public transport vanished. Even when buses do run, a… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
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Ernie The Smallholder

There is too much reliance on the private motor car. I have been a driver but know how a problem it is to have to purchase a single vehicle for all your purposes. When I was young in the 1950 & 60s, my family had a single large van for our business (nothing else) otherwise we used the buses for individual journeys or days out. When I passed my test I had the problem that there wasn’t an all purpose vehicle I then had to purchase. I then detested the loss of public transport and of choice. Motor Cars are… Read more »

Lyn Roberts
Guest
Lyn Roberts

Jersey have got it right. Check it out. Local homes only for local people. The only outsiders allowed to buy a house are zillionaires and they can only buy really expensive houses. It’s been like that for years and it works. It’s ridiculous that second home owners in north wales have found a loophole to get out of paying council tax and are allowed to get away with it. Many of them retire here into what was their holiday home and further anglicise our villages. They’ve already started to kill our communities, our way of life, our language. It has… Read more »