Eryri holiday home controls move step closer as opponents build £73,000 war chest

Row of quarrymen's cottages in Beddgelert
Row of quarrymen's cottages in Beddgelert -Credit:Andrew Forgrave/North Wales Live

Public feedback is being sought on controversial plans to manage the numbers of second homes and holiday lets in the Eryri National Park. It comes as opponents continue efforts to raise £73,000 to launch a judicial review of similar proposals in Gwynedd.

Last month Eryri issued a notice of intent to introduce an Article 4 Direction in the national park. This aims to restrict domestic properties being turned into holiday lets and second homes, which now account for 17.4% of all properties in Eryri.

The trend has been blamed for pushing up property prices and squeezing local people out of the housing market. A research paper found 65.6% of the Eryri population cannot afford to buy a home where they live and described the current housing situation as critical.

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A six-week public consultation on Eryri’s Article 4 Direction (A4D) has been launched and this runs until May 24. Tim Jones, chair of the National Park Authority, said the measure, if introduced, would be a “significant and historical move” that would help reshape Eryri’s communities.

Critics claim an A4D would strip homeowners of basic rights and could lead to a market slump – a 5% drop in prices was cited in previous research in Northumberland. This will push up mortgage costs and put some homeowners into negative equity, it's argued. At the same time, an A4D might boost the values of existing second homes and holiday lets in Gwynedd.

Three separate fundraisers are underway with the overall aim of raising enough money to launch a Judicial Review. Their backers claim that, paradoxically, local people will suffer the most. Sign up now for the latest news on the North Wales Live Whatsapp community

They state: “In our view, A4D will make it extremely difficult for local residents to sell their properties, which will stagnate the property market. It will actually reduce the number of affordable homes at the bottom of the property ladder as local residents will be unable to move up the ladder and will remain in the first properties.”

Median house prices by ward in Eryri in 2022-23
Median house prices by ward in Eryri in 2022-23 -Credit:Eryri NPA

Critics cite parallels with other planning restrictions on homes, such as Section 106 notices. “Several locals have shared with us harrowing stories of the difficulties they experienced in selling a property with a S.106 notice,” they said. “One local couple who after 11 years of trying to sell their property were finally able to do so but for £10,000 less than they had bought it for 13 years previously.”

A stage one fundraiser, for £12,500 to pay for preparatory work, has already hit its target. The next stage, to apply for permission to bring a judicial review, is almost halfway to raising the £20,500 needed.

The final stage, to fund the actual court hearing, is still a long way short of its £40,000 target. The fundraisers were arranged in stages in case the legal challenge stutters or Cyngor Gwynedd abandons its A4D plans.

Cyngor Gwynedd is also aiming to introduce an A4D in the part of the county outside the national park. Gwynedd is further ahead with its A4D plans and has a start date of September 1, 2024. Eryri’s planned start date is June 1, 2025.

Percentage of second homes and holiday accommodation in Eryri in 2022, broken down by towns and
community councils
Percentage of second homes and holiday accommodation in Eryri in 2022, broken down by towns and community councils -Credit:Eryri NPA

Parts of Conwy lie in Eryri national park but Conwy Council has not confirmed if it also intends to introduce a similar A4D to restrict holiday homes. However, Conwy does have A4Ds in four towns to protect non-designated heritage buildings. These controls were imposed in Conwy town, Llandudno, Llanrwst and Penmaenmawr amid concerns they were being affected by “inappropriate and unsympathetic alterations” and the use of unsuitable materials.

On May 4, a rally is taking place in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, to highlight the housing crisis in Welsh-speaking communities. Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Language Society) is pushing for a Property Act that would treat houses as community assets and not money-making opportunities.

Later this year the Welsh Government is due to publish a white paper on “The Right to Adequate Housing”. Next month’s Nid yw Cymru ar Werth (Wales is Not For Sale) rally has been organised to show the strength of feeling about the issue amid concerns that Cardiff is underestimating the extent of the crisis facing Welsh communities.

One rally organiser, Osian Jones, said: “In meetings with officials, Cymdeithas yr Iaith has been very disappointed with the lack of understanding of problems facing local people when trying to find homes at an affordable price in their community, and the lack of understanding of the breaking up of Welsh communities.”

“Unless there is great pressure on the Government before the summer, there is a real danger that the Government’s White Paper on Housing will not make a real difference to our communities.”

Percentage of Eryri households priced out of the housing market in 2022
Percentage of Eryri households priced out of the housing market in 2022 -Credit:Eryri NPA

Proposed A4Ds in Gwynedd and Eryri aim to stop people’s ability to change a main residence into a second home or short-term holiday let without securing planning permission. It’s hoped this will release some houses for use by local people in areas where there is an oversupply of second homes and tourism accommodation.

The A4Ds will not affect properties already established as second homes or holiday lets before the implementation dates. Get all the latest Gwynedd news by signing up to our newsletter - sent every Tuesday

Some A4D critics believe a compromise solution must be sought. One idea is to introduce the measure solely on houses with lower band council taxes. The theory is that this would help first-time buyers without “creating economic disaster” in the local tourism sector.

Eryri A4D consultation

Eryri’s consultation is now live and ends on May 24. The public can submit comments online, on a paper form or by email. Documentation is available on the National Park Authority’s website, at the National Park Authority’s headquarters in Penrhyndeudraeth, at its information centres in Betws y Coed, Beddgelert and Aberdyfi, and in public libraries.

Following the consultation, a report will be presented to the Authority to consider the representations received. A final decision will then be made whether to proceed as planned with the Article 4 Direction.

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