Following concerns raised by Plaid Cymru that five million people in the UK now own more than one home and that Gwynedd now has five thousand second homes - the largest number of any UK area – the Welsh Labour Government has said it will take some steps to correct an anomaly that currently means many second home owners are exempt from having to pay council tax or business rates on their properties.
The move was welcomed by Arfon Assembly Member Sian Gwenllian during First Minister’s Questions today who noted that there was still much to be done to help those families who are being priced out of the market in their own communities due to the presence of so many second homes in rural areas.
Sian Gwenllian AM said that there is a simple step that could easily be taken to make it necessary for any dwelling house to obtain planning permission before it is able to become a second home, meaning that councils have better control over the situation.
Sian Gwenllian AM said,
“This is the question I put to Carwyn Jones today. This is simple and workable measure would at least go some way to help councils get a handle on the numbers of second homes in their areas. I asked him whether or not he agrees with the need to implement this small change, and I look forward to the governement acting on this suggestion as they have done with the council tax and business tax anomaly.
“There is a perfect storm brewing in Gwynedd, where young people are leaving their communities in search of work; there is an increase in the ageing population; second homes are driving up house prices beyond the means of locals; low wages lead to rural poverty, transport poverty and fuel poverty. Then there is the loss of European structural funding that came to us previously because we are one of the poorest areas in Europe and the unspeakable foolishness of the Welsh Labour Government and their plan to stop the single payments to farmers at the very time they need stability and security.
“We now have five thousand second homes in Gwynedd. We are the county with the highest number of second homes in the UK, and their existence drives up all house prices meaning that it is impossible for young families on the low incomes to buy their first home. A beach hut in Abersoch – to keep buckets and spades and a couple of deckchairs – costs £160,000, more than the majority of people can afford to spend on a house let alone a hut.
“Plaid Cymru will contine to argue for a change to the planning system so that permission has to be obtained before a change of use can be made from a residential property to a second home, as happens in Denmark and other places.
“But there is so much more to be done, and putting the needs of rural communities at the heart of our planning policy is imperative for the survival of those communities. Introducing new economic interventions to help sustain rural communities is also vital. I shall be taking every opportunity during the remainder of this Assembly term to push a stagnant Welsh Labour for the changes that need to happen whilst also campaigning for a Plaid Cymru government in 2021.”