9th August, 2022
New Measures Announced to Control the Number of Second Homes in Wales
Mark Turner, Partner and member of the Planning, Environment, Energy and Regulatory team, discusses the current issue surrounding second homes in Wales.
Concerns surrounding the rising number of second homes has forced the Welsh Government to act. In July a series of measures were announced that it hopes will improve the ability for local people to afford to buy or rent homes in their community.
The new measures include changes to current regulations, which will introduce three new planning use classes:
i. A primary home.
ii. A second home.
iii. Short-term holiday accommodation.
These changes will enable local planning authorities, in situations where they have sufficient evidence, to make amendments in their areas and require people to seek planning permission for a change of use from one class to another – for example, an individual planning to use their primary home as a holiday let would have to obtain permission before doing so.
Whilst not clarified as of yet, it is expected that when considering such an application, authorities will take into account the number of holiday lets in that area, as well as the local availability of housing to rent or buy.
Efforts to solve this problem had already been made by the Welsh Government, with the new changes following previous measures introduced earlier in 2022, that included granting councils the power to increase council tax premiums on second and empty homes.
These measures have been introduced in response to concerns that locals were being priced out of the property market and that rural locations were facing a housing crisis as a result of second home ownership.
Solving the issue though is not as simple as it first seems. Tourism is responsible for a great deal of the Welsh economy, amounting to approximately £6.3 billion per year. As such, tourism business owners have expressed concerns about the measures, including that there is not enough time for businesses to prepare for the changes, and furthermore, that the Welsh Government had not sufficiently defined what constitutes a second home.
It is my view that the changes to the planning use classes are unlikely to be effective, as it is going to be very difficult for local authorities to police the changes, given that all planning departments are severely understaffed. This is particularly relevant in relation to enforcing breaches and my suspicion is that if somebody does not seek consent for a change of use when they should, under resourced local authority planning teams won’t have the capacity to take any enforcement action in any event.
The new planning regulations are expected to come into force by the end of the summer. If you would like further advice on the issue, please get in touch directly or via the online form below.
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