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New planning powers in Wales curb second homes and crackdown on Airbnb’s

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Few things in planning are truly “radical”, but after decades of campaigning new planning powers in Wales are set to curb the contentious issue of second homes and crackdown on holiday lets with the introduction of three new use classes.

In Wales and other coastal communities from Cornwall to Cumbria, the impact on local communities of the growing second home market and the loss of private rental property to Airbnb style holiday lets has become a hot political issue. Rising house prices are pricing local people out and the shortage of affordable rental properties is turning communities into ghost villages out of the holiday season. And in Wales, there’s the acute issue of the decline of Welsh speaking communities.

We have observed these impacts during one of our recent studies preparing an action plan to manage the impact of tourism on the idyllic Welsh speaking coastal community of Llansteffan in Carmarthenshire. It’s estimated in the village with about 500 people, 25% of properties are second homes, just 11 homes have families with children of school age and only 9 properties are on the social housing register. The lack of affordable housing for local people and families because of a growth in second homes, holiday lets, and rising house prices has been raised as a major issue. Young people, therefore, families with children are moving out of the village. During our study we met with a group of young adults, each one had grown up in the village, and all were employed but had been forced to move away or were ‘stuck’ living with a parent in the village. This raised concerns about the longer-term impacts on sustaining the community and social infrastructure including the school. For some, they believed it was too late and will never be able to return to live in their home village.

The new power in Wales will give local planning authorities the ability, where they have evidence, to make local amendments to the planning system through an Article 4 Direction, allowing them to consider whether planning permission is required to change from different types of dwellinghouses to another and to control the number of additional second homes and short-term lets in an area. The Use Classes Order is being amended to create new use classes for ‘dwellinghouses, used as sole or main residences’ (class C3), ‘dwellinghouses, used otherwise than as sole or main residences’ (class C5) and ‘short-term lets’ (class C6).

In addition, the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) is being amended to allow permitted changes between the new use classes, C3, C5 and C6. These permitted development rights can be dis-applied within a specific area by an Article 4 Direction made by a local planning authority based on robust local evidence. These new powers will come into force on 20th October 2022.

These changes come hot on the heels of legislation allowing local authorities in Wales to impose a 300% council tax hike on second homes and plans to levy a higher Land Transaction Tax on purchases.

Likely, similar coastal and rural areas of the UK with parallel issues will look on Wales with interest and maybe envy. Earlier this year the UK Government declared “war” on second-home owners said the press when a review into Airbnb and holiday homes in tourist towns was launched as part of the “levelling-up” programme.

Owen Davies

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