Homes for sale: Welsh people need not apply

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The Independent Online

On the surface, it is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill planning dispute, but the argument about whether to allow a block of 16 holiday flats to be built in the picturesque Welsh town of Pwllheli masks long-running concerns about the so-called English invasion.

On the surface, it is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill planning dispute, but the argument about whether to allow a block of 16 holiday flats to be built in the picturesque Welsh town of Pwllheli masks long-running concerns about the so-called English invasion.

Next month Gwynedd council will decide whether a proposal to build 16 flats should be given planning permission and, if it is, whether their sale should be restricted to holiday-makers or if residents will also be able to buy them.

The issue has divided local councillors, many of whom feel that no more holiday accommodation should be built because of fears that the influx of tourists is destroying the Welsh language and the area's villages. Others feel that selling the holiday flats to tourists keeps them all in one place and also allows the locals to buy property in the rest of the town, often at cheaper prices.

The issue has long aroused strong emotions. In the village of Rhyd, near Porthmadog, also on the Lleyn Peninsula, the purchase of homes for weekend and holiday use has left just two local families and led to the closure of the school and chapel. In nearby Croesor, five out of 15 homes are owned by outsiders.

The Welsh Assembly ispreparing legislation to restrict the increase in English-owned holiday homes. This could dictate who has the right to buy new homes and also whether houses can be turned into holiday homes.

If they are passed, the proposals could result in amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act which would allow local councils to define the sale of homes to outsiders as "a change of use" and block them on the basis of adverse economic effect.

Richard Parry Hughes, deputy leader of Gwynedd council, is against the holiday flats. "The area already has a lot of holiday homes. The latest figures show that 24 per cent of all housing in the Lleyn Peninsula is in holiday ownership," he said.

"The flats should be available for locals to buy and then, if they want, they can let them to holiday-makers. At least that keeps the economy flowing.

"This development is taking land from the town and there is a shortage of land for ordinary people. If we want to make the most of this beautiful area by developing tourism then there should be more hotels and holiday lets. The locals could then buy houses in the town.

"If we don't try and stop this it could end up like Abersoch, which has 45 per cent of second homes."

Alan Williams, the Plaid Cymru councillor for the ward where the flats would be built, said that restricting the new development to holiday flats at £50,000 would allow local people to buy the houses in the town which are changing hands for less than £40,000.

"This is an emotive issue but one of the reasons I support holiday homes is that it would allow the local people to buy starter homes in the town.

"I would rather the flats were available to everyone, but it is better they are built as holiday flats than not at all.

"Pwllheli could not become like Abersoch because there is not enough land to build on - it is bordered on all four sides by the sea, the estuary and the hills."

Whatever the outcome, Gwynedd council is unlikely to go as far as the Danish island of Fano, where foreigners have been banned from owning land or property since 1950.

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