Fri. Mar 1st, 2024
alert-–-north-wales-enclave-announces-out-of-towners-will-have-to-pay-double-council-tax-–-as-authorities-across-the-uk-clamp-down-on-holiday-letsAlert – North Wales enclave announces out-of-towners will have to pay DOUBLE council tax – as authorities across the UK clamp down on holiday lets

A council in North Wales has become the latest to wage war against second home owners after voting to double council tax on properties belonging to out-of-towners.

Conwy County Borough Council will also slap a 300 per cent premium on properties that are empty for five years or more as it joins a cohort of other communities across Britain that are fed up of second-home owners hollowing out their town centres.

A councillor in the region, which includes holiday hotspots like Llandudno and Abergele, said there were 1,400 long-term empty homes and 1,000 second homes – with almost the same number of people on either housing lists or in emergency accomodation.

Local councils were given the power to impose additional taxes on second homes by the Welsh Government earlier this year; many, like Conwy, are expected to impose hikes as they set their budgets for 2024/25 early next year.

It’s the latest in a series of pushbacks against part-time residents in holiday hotspots across the country, which have seen councils slap ‘bin taxes’ on out-of-towners and residents turn out in droves in local referenda to ban new second homes altogether.

Communities in England and Wales are fighting back against the increasing number of second homes across the country – with plans mooted in Scotland for council tax premiums to be imposed on holiday homes

Conwy county, which has voted to double council tax on second homes, is home to idyllic coastal towns such as Llandudno (pictured)

Communities across Britain are revolting against second home owners by voting for bans on the sale of homes as part-time residences, such as in Burnham Market (pictured)

Conwy County Borough Council leader Charlie McCoubrey said a permanent home owner was ‘more beneficial’ to the local economy than a part-time resident

Conwy leader Cllr Charlie McCoubrey, speaking at the meeting in which the decision was made to impose the tax hike, said that while the benefits of tourism shouldn’t be understated, permanent residents carried more worth for the local economy.

He said: ‘A lot of the objections are, “I spend money in local shops” – well, I would make the case that I am here 51 weeks a year, as is my family, and I spend that money every single week. 

‘I think that’s more beneficial than somebody who is here occasionally.’

READ MORE: Furious locals in seaside resort of Salcombe say second-home owners are renting out their properties ‘on the quiet’ to avoid paying £350 ‘bin tax’ for commercial waste collection 

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Conwy’s move, however, has been slammed by local Conservatives including councillor Louise Emery, who said measures on second homes had gone ‘far enough’.

As part of the new Welsh Government regime, holiday lets must be booked out for 182 days a year to avoid paying council tax – to deter people from leaving homes empty all year round. 

Senedd Tory Mark Isherwood, speaking to the BBC, said people who operated ‘legitimate self-catering businesses’ from their additional properties were being unfairly penalised by the new laws, brought in under the Labour-Plaid Cymru co-operation agreement.

Mr Isherwood added: ‘We’re talking about real, indigenous businesses that are central to local tourism economies, potentially having their hearts ripped out of them.’

The Welsh government says tourism is important for the economy, but that it has to ‘ensure appropriate balance’ with demand for housing. 

But Conwy is just the latest in a line of places across Britain that have seen both politicians and local communities rise up against second home owners amid claims they are starving towns of their populations.

Other Welsh communities, such as Tenby in Pembrokeshire, are already imposing premium taxes on second homes; Tenby officials added 50 per cent to council tax bills in 2017, rising to 100 per cent in 2021.

The Scottish Government is mulling over plans to introduce a council tax premium from as early as next year, on top of a 6 per cent ‘additional homes supplement’ already charged on top of sales taxes.

And across England local authorities, with the support of residents, are preparing to take advantage of the powers proposed in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that will allow them to also levy heftier council tax charges on non-residents.

Salcombe, in Devon, sees its population surge from around 2,000 in the winter to somewhere in the region of 20,000 during the summer months.

Salcombe in Devon, which surges from 2,000 residents in winter to ten times that in the summer as people flock to holiday homes

Retired fisherman Richard Baylay, from Salcombe, believes there are ‘too many holiday homes’

Maxwell Graham-Wood, who owns Satchells Wines in Burnham Market, Norfolk, has placed a sign outside his premises stating second home owners are ‘welcome’

South Hams District Council has voted to double council tax, ban new-build homes from being second homes ‘in perpetuity’, and has started imposing a £350 annual ‘bin tax’ on second homes to stop them from abusing residential waste collections.

Locals claim to have seen guests at holiday homes walking down the streets with armfuls of bin bags to dispose of them in public bins, as second home owners are letting out their homes ‘on the quiet’ to avoid commercial waste charges.

Retired crab fisherman Richard Baylay, 86, said: ‘There are just too many holiday homes. If they are run as businesses to make a profit for the owner then of course they should pay commercial waste charges like every other business.

READ MORE: Our city is being flooded by pop-up brothels and stag parties thanks to a surge in Airbnb and short-term lets, the people of Cambridge say 

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One shop owner in the town, who would not be named, told : ‘I see them (second home owners), or their rental guests, dropping big bags of rubbish in street litter bins. So we’re all paying to get that collected. I’m glad to see the council going after them.’

On the Norfolk coast, residents in Heacham voted 18 months ago to impose a ban on new-build homes being purchased by part-time residents.

Weeks ago, the nearby communities of Blakeney and Burnham Market followed suit, voting to ban the sale of any properties as second homes or holiday lets – new or otherwise.

However, some businesses say that they rely on the trade of out-of-towners during the summer months to sustain them through the winter.

Maxwell Graham-Wood, who owns Satchells Wines in Burnham Market, put up a sign to say that second home owners were ‘welcome here’.

He told : ‘If we had to rely on local people for business then there wouldn’t be a single business left in the village because they don’t shop here.

‘Businesses love second home owners and holidaymakers and the sooner these extremists can drop this ridiculous attitude towards the people that keep our economy going, the better.’

Arthur Howell, of Arthur Howell Butchers in nearby Wells-next-the-Sea, added: ‘We need the business that holidaymakers bring in over the summer to get us through the winter. It would be very worrying if that was to stop.’

Sedgeford, Heacham, Snettisham and Holme-next-the-Sea, all in Norfolk, have also agreed restrictions. Almost half of the 706 properties in Blakeney are second homes or holiday lets, and house prices have soared nearly 50 per cent in six years.

And there are similar fightbacks occurring in idyllic towns and villages around the UK including St Ives in Cornwall and Swanage in Dorset, which is imposing council tax premiums and an empty home surcharge on unused properties.

Tourists in St Ives, Cornwall, which has banned the sale of new-build properties as second homes

Swanage in Dorset, which is imposing council tax premiums and an empty home surcharge on unused accommodation 

British second homes surged in popularity during the pandemic when well-to-do holidaymakers, unable to travel abroad, sought out idyllic settings closer to home.

But locals say their communities have been gutted as homes that would otherwise be occupied by permanent residents sit empty most of the year, depriving local businesses of regular customers and driving up house prices.

Blakeney Parish Council chairman Rosemary Thew said earlier this month that while tourism was a ‘big part of the village economy’, ‘the volume of second homes is very high, around half. It’s pushing prices up quite considerably. It means that, as far as locals are concerned, they can’t afford to live here.’

In Southwold, Suffolk, second-home owners who do not pay council tax by claiming their homes are holiday lets have paid the price – after local councillors voted to strip them of weekly bin collections and the right to buy parking permits.

Councillor David Beavan, who has led the campaign against the ‘rates cheats’ said last year: ‘This is not about us and them, it’s about decency and fairness.’

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