Dwyfor to trial pilot scheme as Welsh Government announce plans to tackle second homes impact

Minister Julie James said the pilot scheme will bring together a range of actions to address the impact large numbers of second homes. Credit: ITV Wales

Dwyfor has been named as the location for a new pilot scheme as the Welsh Government announced its next steps to tackle the impact of second homes on Welsh communities.

Climate Change Minister, Julie James confirmed on Tuesday that the pilot scheme will bring together a range of actions to address the impact large numbers of second homes and short-term holiday lets can have.

The first phase of the pilot in Dwyfor, which will be supported by Gwynedd Council, will start in January and will focus on shared equity schemes and renting out empty homes.

The pilot will be supported by Gwynedd Council

The Minister also launched a consultation which could see changes to planning, taxation and tourism systems.

The consultation will be open for views on the use of ‘class order’ in planning which would allow local planning authorities to require planning applications for additional second homes and short-term holiday lets in areas where they are "causing significant difficulties for communities".

Speaking in the Senedd, the Climate Change Minister said: “We want young people to have a realistic prospect of buying or renting affordable homes in the places they have grown up so they can live and work in their local communities.

“High numbers of second and holiday homes in one area can threaten the Welsh language in its heartlands and affect the sustainability of some rural areas.

“We are a welcoming nation and tourism is a major part in our economy bringing jobs and income to many parts of Wales. But we don’t want ghost villages in seasonal holiday spots – places where no one’s at home in the winter months. 

“These are complex issues and there are no quick fixes. What may be right for one community may not work for another. We will need to bring forward a range of actions, there is no one silver bullet here!” 

Welsh language Minister, Jeremy Miles

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, also announced the launch of a consultation on additional measures for communities in which the Welsh language is widely spoken.

It will form the basis of the government's Welsh Language Communities Housing Plan to maintain Welsh-speaking communities as places that facilitate the use of the language.  

He said: “We want our Welsh-language communities to continue to be economically viable places for local people, especially young people, to live and work and where the Welsh language and culture can thrive.

“While there are no easy answers, I am confident the interventions proposed today will go a long way to addressing our objective of ensuring that people in Welsh-speaking communities can afford to live in the communities in which they grew up.”

Dwyfor was chosen as the pilot scheme location as it's one of Wales' Welsh-speaking heartlands and it's an area where second homes and holiday lets range from around one in five to almost half of the available properties.

Gwynedd Council has welcomed the announcement after years of lobbying.

Council Leader and Plaid Cymru Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn described it as "a defining moment".

He said: "For the first time, the Welsh Government has recognised that it has a key role to play to ensure that current and future generations can continue to live in our coastal and rural communities as a matter of fundamental social justice.

“In particular, we strongly welcome confirmation that the Welsh Government will begin the necessary steps to amend current planning regulation on the principle that any individual seeking to change the use of a dwelling from a primary home to a second home, holiday home or short-term holiday let will need planning approval in future.”

Conservative MS, Janet Finch-Saunders

Conservative MS and Shadow Climate Change Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders said she was "deeply disturbed" by announcement and said that a "need for a rethink is clear". 

She added: “Increasing premiums is not the answer, neither is the possibility of enabling local planning authorities to ‘switch on’ the need for planning permission to change from a primary home to a secondary home or short-term holiday let. 

“I am also deeply disturbed by the continued conflation between second homes and holiday-let businesses. I hope that my intervention today will give pause for thought over the Welsh Government direction of travel.”