As the lights start to fade in Welsh seaside villages across Gwynedd, as the holiday season starts to wind down the debate over new legislation impacting second and holiday homes remains firmly in the spotlight.
As a deadline looms, Gwynedd Council is still seeking opinions over implementing new planning legislation giving councils stronger control over the controversial properties.
According to the council, Gwynedd has the highest percentage of second homes and short-term holiday homes in Wales.
It estimates that more than two thirds of county folk are priced out of local homes as rural and coastal properties are snapped up.
To tackle the second/holiday homes issues earlier this year, the council served an Article 4 Direction ‘Notice’ for the Gwynedd Local Planning Authority area (it does not include parts of Gwynedd which fall within Eryri National Park).
If it wins full approval by its Cabinet this Autumn, its implementation will be a first for any planning authority in Wales.
Presently, it is possible to change the use of a residential dwelling which is a main residence into a second home or short-term holiday let without needing planning consent.
An Article 4 Direction revokes the right to change use without planning permission for a main residence (use class C3) into a second home (use class C5) or short-term holiday let (use class C6) and specific mixed uses, change of use of a second home (use class C5) to a short-term holiday let (use class C6) and specific mixed uses and change of use of short-term holiday let (use class C6) to a second home (use class C5) and specific mixed uses.
It does not apply to properties already established as a second home or short-term holiday lets before 1 September 1.
The issue has sparked much debate with those in favour citing issues including protecting local housing and Welsh speaking communities.
It has often been reported that hotspot holiday destinations such as such as Abersoch, Nefyn and across the Llŷn become ghost towns during winter months.
But among the protests by critics are that it could depress the housing market, create a two-tier system and push owners into negative equity.
But whatever the view, as part of a public engagement exercise the council is urging residents have their say by September 13, 2023.
Cllr Dafydd Meurig, Cabinet Member for the Environment said: “As was highlighted in research published by the Council in 2020, “Managing the use of dwellings as holiday homes” Gwynedd has the highest percentage of second homes and short-term holiday accommodation in Wales.
“More recently research by the council shows that on average 65.5% of the population of Gwynedd are being priced out of the housing market, with the percentage increasing substantially in areas where there are higher numbers of holiday homes.
“As part of measures to seek to manage the impact of second homes and short-term holiday lets on communities, the Welsh Government has introduced changes to planning legislation.
“These amendments mean that Local Planning Authorities can introduce what is known as an Article 4 Direction to manage the use of housing as second homes and holiday lets.
“If confirmed, the Article 4 Direction would enable a Local Planning Authority to require property owners to obtain planning permission before changing the use of their properties into second homes or short-term holiday lets.
“If implemented, the measures would allow the council to control the use of houses as second homes in the Gwynedd Planning Authority Area and provide an opportunity to manage the use made of new houses in future.
“The council is currently carrying out a public engagement exercise on this matter and is urging members of the public to submit their views by 13 September 2023.
“All comments received during the public engagement period will receive appropriate consideration and form part of a report that will be presented to the council’s Cabinet as they make their final decision regarding whether or not to confirm the Article 4 Direction.
“Implementing an Article 4 Direction to control second homes and short-term holiday lets would be a first for a Planning Authority in Wales.
“However, as a council, we are firmly of the view that it is a step that should be considered as part of a wider package of measures to address the housing crisis we face in Gwynedd.”