Tenby needs to act ‘sooner rather than later’ on the growing housing crisis in the area, councillors have stated.

Speaking at a recent meeting of the Town Council, Clr. Mike Evans told his fellow members that obviously this was the biggest pressure on the community at the moment.

“We need to be leading as a town council, and we need to set up a working group to deal with this crisis,” he remarked.

“County councillor Michael Williams is here tonight and we read and support his comments in the local press. We all understand where we are.”

He said that there was not a part of our community that had not been touched by Tenby’s housing need, but action was needed sooner rather than later.

Clr. Evans said that despite some local opposition to the proposed Brynhir housing development, he saw it as very much a ‘light on the horizon’. He called for information such as how many are currently waiting for homes on the register to take into the meeting with Pembrokeshire County Council on the proposed housing scheme

The town clerk said he believed that there were 5,000 people on the waiting list for the county but didn’t know the breakdown into areas.

“Other communities have set up community land trusts,” commented Clr. Evans. “PLANED have an interest in being leaders in land trusts and this is currently high on Welsh Government’s agenda.

“The town council need to get involved with new builds and consider restrictions on occupancy. Gwynedd County Council is looking into this to see if it is lawful.

“In St Ives this has already been used and it would be interesting to know how it has worked down there.

“We must have a local connections policy for Brynhir in perpetuity but there are other opportunities in our area,” he continued.

“Planning permission was granted four years ago off Narberth Road for a site offering 60 per cent affordable housing, but nothing has started. Where are the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority? Why has this site not been developed or come to fruition?

“The old Post Office site in Tenby is also there. We’ve met with PCC, and this is a perfect site for affordable housing similar to Ateb housing above the Delphi. We need to put pressure on to get this moving.

“There must be garages, small plots of land, and sites around Augustus Place where we can fit in local housing units on land under county council ownership. We as a town council can point them in these directions and put pressure on.

“All this needs to be teased out going forward if we do have a working group. Every councillor is being asked for help and it’s challenging,” he added.

Clr. Laurence Blackhall thanked Clr. Evans for his summary, and also felt the town council needed to understand what Welsh Government are able to look at and the potential to secure additional funding.

“We need to gather information to learn what others are doing, catalogue it and produce range of options,” he said, agreeing that forming a working party would be worthwhile, with an invite to neighbouring areas such as - Penally, St Mary’s Out Liberty, to involve them in discussions.

“We need to involve Ateb and other stakeholders to create solutions that we can use to hold Tenby up as an example to others.”

Clr. Mrs. Sue Lane agreed with the comments of her colleagues, adding that part of the problem was that people were buying long-lets and turning them into Airbnbs.

Whilst she had nothing against Airbnb - unfortunately this was not monitored and the number of locals looking for homes now was growing as landlords who used to offer long-let rentals were selling up.

The Mayor, Clr. Mrs. Sam Skyrme-Blackhall commented that Clr. Mrs. Lane mirrored what was said at the meeting between the Town Council and Visit Pembrokeshire organisation recently meeting, in that that the problems such as Airbnbs was affecting what was left of our community, and locals have nowhere to go.

Clr. Mrs. Christine Brown agreed that Airbnbs needed to be regulated, as being able to simply turn your house into an Airbnb was wrong, she felt.

She also supported what county councillor for Tenby’s North ward Clr. Michael Williams had said about increasing tax on letting property. She estimated 75 per cent of houses occupied were as Airbnb or holiday let, and not long-lets.

Clr. Mrs. Brown said that she had walked up her street and asked owners if they would agree to let to someone local who needed a long let and the reply was no as they can earn over £1K a week from holiday letting.

She said she admired a lady and gentleman in St Mary’s Street who are converting their guest house into five flats, two of which are allocated to Ateb.

“Not a lot of people know this - it is a brilliant idea,” she said, wishing others would consider it.

Speaking to members, Clr. Williams said he wanted the county council to lobby the Senedd to allow a further increase of the levels of charges on holiday homes in areas such as Pembrokeshire.

“It may encourage those who are multiple property owners to give a percentage to be rented out as permanent accommodation,” he suggested.

Currently there is a consultation with Welsh Government regarding the future of planning related to Airbnb and holiday lets and he felt town councils should contribute to this consultation.

Regarding the land west of Narberth Road mentioned, it is believed that the owners were forced to put in an application or it would have been withdrawn from the Local Development Plan as a candidate site, he said.

However, there is no condition attached that they must then proceed with the development. The applicants could sit on this for 5 years and then just renew the planning permission. PCNPA can only encourage development not force, he explained.

He felt community land trusts were a good idea and he was aware of innovative moves to develop community land trusts. It was not easy and very bureaucratic but he believed our situation called for something innovative.

“Airbnbs contribute nothing to the local economy. Radical action is needed,” stated Clr. Williams.

Clr. Paul Rapi feared that Tenby was ‘near the end of its days’ because of this situation.

“Something should have been done a long time ago, this is such a serious situation,” he remarked. He said that Brynhir ‘may be our saviour’ but he was speaking to a person in the market who said that they had just bought three houses for letting.

“Airbnbs are replacing bed and breakfasts and there is no legal control,” he continued.

“There is almost no community left within our town walls! The worst thing about this is it is due to locals, they want to get the most for their houses, so they’re just as much to blame as anyone else,” said Clr. Rapi, adding that even in Carew there was a problem.

“Carew people cannot find accommodation in their own village because houses are being turned into Airbnbs! This is affecting the whole of Pembrokeshire.

“Perhaps we need a disaster such as a market crash, then perhaps second homes will be sold and hopefully locals will buy.

“We must start the ball rolling on finding solutions. As both Clr. Evans and Clr. Williams have said, we need to get something done and we need to lead,” he added.

Clr. Blackhall suggested the town council take Clr. Evans’ suggestion to form a working party with an open invitation for both councillors and others to look at ideas from different places.

“We must come up with plan to take forward and keep this as an active issue to develop concrete proposals as to how we can at least tackle the crisis,” he said.

Clr. Evans hoped that there may be light at the end of the tunnel, as the Welsh Government were holding a consultation process on holiday lets and change of use to holiday lets to look at ways of regulating everything.

“The Town Council should look at this and speak with our Senedd Member to make sure it is activated in Wales,” he remarked.

“At the moment if you want to kick out long term residential tenants you can and there are case studies within this council area where local people have been served notice.

“Tonight has resulted in an interesting discussion - now let’s dig deep and try to make small differences,” added Clr. Evans.