A HOUSING group chief has warned that Welsh communities are at threat because of new laws planned for England.
Nick Bennett, chief executive of Community Housing Cymru (CHC), has spoken out in the wake of an inquiry launched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in England.
It is aimed at tackling the rising number of people who buy houses in rural areas for purely weekend use.
Buyers could find in future that they are caught in red tape, being forced to apply for planning permission for a change in use.
But the new rules, if introduced, would not apply to Wales. Coupled with a cut in capital gains tax on second homes, it could see second home-buyers targeting Wales instead.
Now Mr Bennett has given evidence to the Matthew Taylor Review, the inquiry looking at the issue and named after the MP heading it.
Even though the inquiry does not cover Wales, Mr Bennett said: “There is a real danger that rural communities in Wales will come under even more intense pressure if we see Treasury measures that incentivise second home ownership across the UK, but planning safeguards in England and not in Wales. For this reason we have submitted evidence to the Taylor review.”
Evidence given to the review by CHC shows that in rural areas in Wales, three per cent of houses are second homes. The proportion of second homes in rural Wales is one-and-a-half times that for rural areas across Britain as a whole (1.8 per cent).
Gwynedd is the rural area with the highest proportion of second homes in Wales at eight per cent. Across Britain, only Argyll & Bute in Scotland and South Hams in Devon have a higher proportion of second homes.
The submitted evidence says: “CHC notes the reports of the Rural Advocate and the Rural Service Network of March 2008 and the importance of housing in rural areas in establishing a community feel – the Rural Service Network speaks of some areas as little more than ‘dormitories’ where villages are nothing more than a collection of houses with no services.
“Both reports highlight the fact that many rural areas are losing key services and the detrimental effect this is having on communities... the increase in second homes is seen as one contributing factor to the increased house prices and shortage of homes in such areas.
“This has led to increasing numbers of levels of outward migration as people cannot afford to live in areas where they have grown up.”
Earlier this month, Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price voiced his fears that the new regulations – coupled with a new tax break for second home owners – could see people “massing at the borders”.
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Mr Price warned of “a knock-on effect with second home housing refugees massing at the border, deprived of their inalienable right to have a weekend home in the Cotswolds or the Lake District, seeking recompense in Wales.”
In response, Deputy Housing Minister Jocelyn Davies said the Assembly Government was looking at a number of policies “to ensure there are enough affordable homes for young people in Wales to be able to stay in their local communities and ensure that they not only survive but thrive”.
Mr Taylor’s review is due to report its findings in July.
nTHE number of people seeking to buy property in North Wales has fallen sharply as the credit squeeze bites and banks clamp down on lending.
Estate agency The Property People say they are receiving 40 per cent fewer inquiries in Anglesey and Gwynedd than usual.
Managing director Melfyn Williams said: “There’s more caution at the moment. People are hesitant because of worries about the cash crisis.”