Plaid Cymru representatives on Pembrokeshire County Council that act for local wards have backed last week’s announcement by the Welsh Government, on proposals to increase the maximum level of council tax premiums for second homes, as well as new local tax rules for holiday lets.

The changes represent more steps taken to ensure people can find an affordable home in the place they have grown up; with the measures part of a wider commitment to address the issue of second homes and unaffordable housing facing many communities in Wales, as set out in the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

The commitment is to take immediate and radical action using the planning, property and taxation systems.

The maximum level at which local authorities can set council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties will be increased to 300 per cent, which will be effective from April 2023.

This will enable councils to decide the level which is appropriate for their individual local circumstances.

Councils will be able to set the premium at any level up to the maximum, and they will be able to apply different premiums to second homes and long-term empty dwellings.

Premiums are currently set at a maximum level of 100 per cent and were paid on more than 23,000 properties in Wales this year.

Local authorities opting to apply premiums have access to additional funding, and the Welsh Government has encouraged councils to use these resources to improve the supply of affordable housing.

The criteria for self-catering accommodation being liable for business rates instead of council tax will also change from next April.

Currently, properties that are available to let for at least 140 days, and that are actually let for at least 70 days, will pay rates rather than council tax.

The change will increase these thresholds to being available to let for at least 252 days and actually let for at least 182 days in any 12-month period.

The change is intended to provide a clearer demonstration that the properties concerned are being let regularly as part of genuine holiday accommodation businesses making a substantial contribution to the local economy.

Both changes follow a consultation processes including businesses, the tourism industry and local communities.

Commenting on the plans, Tenby’s county councillor for the town’s North ward, Clr. Michael Williams welcomed the proposal to increase the limit to which Local Authorities can increase the level of second home premium to 300 per cent.

“This is long overdue, and I’m proud to have been the councillor who purposed the second home premium a number of years ago. If I am returned to office in May my first act will be to propose a Notice of Motion to increase the charge to 300 per cent at the earliest opportunity,” he remarked.

“I regard this as the first step after some thirty years of campaigning for a change in legislation. The planning regulations now need to be urgently amended making it a planning condition to change from a permanent residence to a second home, by the requirement to apply for a change of use.

“The planning authority can them set a limit on the number of second homes permitted in any one area, and if that limit is exceeded can refuse the application.

“The rating system is also to be further addressed in an attempt to close the door on the current situation which allows owners to switch to business rates, and then pay nothing,” continued Clr. Williams, who said that the ‘wide level of fraud’ must also be addressed.

“I see a number of individuals who falsely claim that what is in fact their second home being registered as their permanent residence in order to avoid the second home premium.

“It is a good first step, but much more needs to be done to protect and restore local communities.

“We now must concentrate on restoring the viability of communities that are currently almost devoid of economic and cultural life, and this needs the reoccupation of swathes of our areas by local individuals who have a desire to contribute to their community.

“We already see the local authority actively purchasing vacant property in the area, and I hope this can be extended. We must now look at the reintroduction of mortgages for local residents, to enable them to buy suitable properties in the heart of communities, if necessary by the use of compulsory purchase, or by using the District Valuation office to negotiate the purchase price of a property.

“To those who oppose this legislation I would say, spend some time with me and meet those local families that are homeless or are under notice to quit from long term lets as more and more long lets seek to switch to AirBnBs.

“This is compounding an already critical housing situation, one which the local authority is failing to address. I never thought that I would see homeless hostels with waiting lists in this county.

“To those second home owners who say: ‘We will oppose this and we have the funds to defeat it’ Where is your moral compass? Such arrogance is unbelievable but not a new experience! Bring it on - we occupy the moral high ground and we will defend our communities,” he added.

Clr. Jon Preston, who represents the Penally, Gumfreston and St. Mary Out Liberty (New Hedges) wards on the local authority, also gave his backing to the new measures to address the housing crisis in the county and across Wales.

“We witnessed the predicted pushback by individuals and second homeowner groups. However, when we look at Pembrokeshire, the current situation is eroding the very fabric of what makes the area special,” he commented.

“The council tax premium cap has been increased as one of only several measures to offset the negative impacts of second homes.

“Council tax has always been perceived as unfair since its introduction, but it is one of the few tools Welsh Government can use to raise revenue for local housing and community projects.

“Changes in planning legislation will also provide local authorities with some control of the number of second homes in a particular area and avoid the current saturation that we see in Tenby and Saundersfoot.

“In other parts of Wales, councils are exploring the possibility of compulsory purchase to acquire additional social housing.

“Some of these measures may seem punitive but that is not the case, people in Pembrokeshire need homes and to do nothing is no longer an option,” added Clr. Preston.