Massive change on second homes and Airbnbs in part of Wales could come in this summer

-Credit: (Image: Ian Cooper/North Wales Live)
-Credit: (Image: Ian Cooper/North Wales Live)


A massive change on second homes and Airbnbs in part of Wales could be in place by the end of the summer. Under the new rules planning would be needed by homeowners to change their property into a second home or to use it as a holiday let.

Under new Welsh Government legislation each local planning authority has the power to decide whether planning permission is required to change from one use class to another by removing permitted development rights. The introduction of an 'Article 4 Direction' allows the removal of these rights.

Cyngor Gwynedd's Cabinet will meet next week to decide whether to implement the new Article 4 Direction.

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Supporters say it will help control the use of houses as second homes and holiday accommodation, with nearly half of properties in some communities now holiday homes. In 2018 where were 6,293 second homes or holiday lets in Gwynedd but this went up to 7,559 in 2022. It has since fallen slightly to 7,311 after measures like the second home council tax premium were introduced.

But critics say it could depress the local housing market, push homeowners into negative equity and leave young people unable to secure mortgages. They add that the policy will push prices up for second and holiday homes as their numbers will fall or remain static.

If the Cabinet decides to confirm, the Article 4 Direction would come into effect from 1 September 2024, within the Gwynedd Local Planning Authority area alone (not in the Eryri National Park area). The change would not apply to properties already established as second homes or short-term holiday accommodation before the Article 4 Direction comes into force.

The purpose of the Article 4 Direction is to revoke the right to change of use without planning consent, for the following use:

  • Change of use of 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;

  • Change of use from a short-term holiday let (use class C6) to a second home (use class C5) and specific mixed uses.

See the table below for further details on Use Classes.

The Council held a public engagement period on the introduction of the Article 4 Direction during August and September 2023.

Nearly 4,000 comments were received - with hundreds both in favour and against.

The comments against it included: "The negative effects of Article 4 will outweigh any positives" and "People will suffer due to the ridiculous proposal". Another added: "I think implementation of Article 4 is unlikely to solve the housing crisis for locals and think the results of its implementation would negatively affect one of our main sources of income, i.e. tourism, and therefore force locals to search out of the area for work."

Another respondent said: "What right does the Council have to place restrictions on people's use of their homes? Contrary to a democratic society," while someone else added: "It is immoral to tell a house-owner who they can or cannot sell their home to. Everyone has the right to sell on the open market."

One of those in favour said: "Currently, the situation is hopeless with an endless increase in second homes and holiday accommodation units. There will be no end to the increase unless Article 4 is exercised. We will not have any communities left unless we cap second homes and holiday lets."

Another said: "I’m not opposed to second home or holiday let’s, but they do need to be carefully managed to ensure the correct mix of accommodation within the county. The article 4 direction would help achieve this." Someone else added: "Incredibly important for the language and will stop towns and villages being empty half the year. Unless Gwynedd Council adopts all the measurements, we will see the exodus of our young people out of the coastal villages and towns, leading to the closure of rural school, shops and pubs changing our village and coastal towns into ghost towns for most parts of the year."

Councillor Dafydd Meurig, Cyngor Gwynedd's Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: "Cyngor Gwynedd wants to ensure that local people able to access suitable and affordable housing locally – that is key to securing the future of our communities. Unfortunately, research shows that a significant proportion of people in Gwynedd are priced out of the housing market and that is more evident in communities with higher numbers of holiday homes.

"It is therefore inevitable that the significant number of houses being used as second homes and short-term holiday accommodation is affecting the ability of the people of Gwynedd to access homes in their communities. By introducing an Article 4 Direction, the Council would have a new tool to try to control the impact of second homes and holiday accommodation. The change would require owners to submit a planning application for changing the use of residential properties into second homes or short-term holiday accommodation.

"Should the Council decide to go ahead, Gwynedd would become the first Planning Authority to use these new planning powers introduced by the Government. Detailed work has been carried out over the past year to set out the case for the change to be made and we are very grateful to everyone who took part during the public engagement period.

"The comments have received careful consideration in the Council's Communities Scrutiny Committee and the Cabinet will now consider all evidence when deciding if it is to confirm the implementation of the Article 4 Direction from September onwards.”

The different classes of use:

Use Class

Explanation

Class C3. Dwelling House; Main Homes

Use of a dwelling house as a sole residence or main residence, which is occupied for more than 183 days in a calendar year by:

(a) a single person or by people who are considered to form one household;

(b) no more than six residents who live together as one household, where care is provided for the residents; or

(c) no more than six residents who live together as one household, where care is not provided for the residents (except for use which is in class C4).

Interpreting Class C3:

· When calculating the 183 days, any time spent by one household in accommodation provided for occupational purposes, such as oil rigs or barracks, contributes to the 183 days.

Class C5. Dwelling House; Secondary homes

Use as a dwelling house, other than as a sole or main residence, occupied for 183 days or less by:

(a) one person or by people who are considered to form one household;

(b) no more than six residents who live together as one household, where care is provided for the residents; or

(c) no more than six residents who live together as one household, where care is not provided for the residents (except for use within class C4).

Interpreting Class C5:

· For the purposes of Class C5(a), "one household" is interpreted in accordance with section 258 of the Housing Act 2004

Class C6. Short term let accommodation

Use of a dwelling house as commercial short-term letting accommodation for a period not exceeding 31 days (for each occupation period).

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