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Cabinet tackles second homes problem

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ON MONDAY, February 15, Cabinet members agreed to publish an affordable homes strategy for Pembrokeshire.

In November last year, Councillor David Lloyd submitted a notice of motion in November 2020, calling for the strategy to be developed as a matter of urgency.

In his supporting statement, Cllr Lloyd said that he had seen many streets in St Davids ‘hollowed out by local homes becoming second homes or holiday lets’.

Councils along the whole of the West Wales coast, stretching from Carmarthenshire to Anglesey, have expressed concern at spiralling house prices, as incomers buy-up properties and price locals out of the housing market.

At the end of the first lockdown in 2020, we spoke with Solva county councillor Mark Carter. He told us that one property in Solva went on the market on Thursday and was sold for significantly over the asking price by the following Monday morning. Local estate agents are reporting similar sales patterns around Wales’ west coast.

Urban flight from England, driven by the Covid pandemic and coastal Wales’ relative safety, is a factor in ratcheting up house prices.

Gwynedd estimated that almost 11% of local housing stock are second homes or used for occasional holiday lets. In Abersoch, one former council house was on the market for £380,000. The average wage in the area is £21,000 per year. The wage most people earn is under £16,000 per year.

In Ceredigion, New Quay’s permanent population has crashed as locals have been forced out of the local housing market by outsiders buying up properties as holiday lets and second homes.

In Carmarthenshire, 1,118 homes are not the owner’s sole or main dwelling – up to 40% in some areas. The effect there was to drive young people out of the market, splinter families, and break-up communities.

Pressure on the Welsh Government to act is now coming from every one of Wales’ west-coast councils.

On January 21, Carmarthenshire County Council passed a wide-ranging motion on the issue.

The motion called for a change in planning laws to ensure that planning permission must be sought to change the use of a primary dwelling into a second home/holiday accommodation.

It also called for local authorities to have the ability to set a cap on the number of second homes in each ward and allow the use of Section 106 (planning) agreements to prevent new properties from being used as second homes in wards with an unacceptable proportion of second homes.

One element of the motion passed in Carmarthenshire is particularly relevant to Pembrokeshire. Carmarthenshire Council approved the introduction of a licensing system for managing the conversion of a residential property into a commercial unit such as a holiday unit/house or Airbnb.

The Camarthenshire motion called for the closure of the ‘loophole’ that allows second homes to register as businesses. If owners do that, they opt out of paying domestic rates and council tax premiums and take advantage of business rate relief.

When pressed on the issue on February 3, Housing Minister Julie James told the Senedd she wouldn’t describe that situation as a loophole. 

However, Ms James disclosed the Welsh Government was considering a range of measures to thwart those registering their second homes as a business. Among the measures it is considering is doubling (at least) the number of nights for which a property is let to permit its owners to register it as a business.

The Minister added that Swansea was actively considering imposing the maximum 200% Council Tax premium. She added that work was ongoing to prevent the sale for use as second homes or holiday lets of properties built with the benefit of public funding support.

Speaking at Cabinet on Monday, February 15, David Lloyd said he was greatly encouraged that work was already underway looking at this issue.

“If we are to protect our communities and keep them cohesive, we have got to take radical action”, Cllr Lloyd added.

Cabinet member for Housing, Cllr Michelle Bateman, said that the situation had been brought into sharper focus since November and that they had seen the impact that covid-19 has had on house prices.

She added that work is ongoing but added that it was good to have it out in public’.

Cllr Jon Harvey said it was essential in the context of many areas in Pembrokeshire and said, setting up a task and finish group would be a ‘good move’.

He added that there was also an opportunity to lobby the Welsh Government over the use-classes order whereby houses could be listed as a primary or secondary residence.

Finance cabinet member Cllr Bob Kilmister added that there was a possibility of increasing second homes council tax which could bring extra support.

“We do have a major crisis for people in the coastal communities, and it is incumbent on us to find a way around this”, he said. “Housing is the most important issue there is in many respects because if you haven’t got a decent home, you haven’t got a start in life.”

Cllr Cris Tomos highlighted that a speaker at the last council meeting had said how concerned they were that rural and coastal communities were seeing more and more second homes.

He added: “The whole composition of communities is changing as less and less local people have houses, so then the whole resilience and composition of communities are changing. So we must have houses for local people so communities can thrive.”

The Cabinet unanimously supported the strategy.

The Leader, Cllr David Simpson, added that Cllr Lloyd could see that Cabinet was fully behind what he is trying to do and said they would move forward in a way that would benefit all of Pembrokeshire.

Cllr Lloyd concluded that the ongoing work confirmed the talent the council has got to deliver this project.

The Cabinet hopes the strategy will be ready for publication by September 2021.

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Plaid’s Dafydd Llywelyn re-elected as Police and Crime Commissioner

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THE NEW Police and Crime Commissioner for the Dyfed Powys Area has been announced.

Incumbent, Dafydd Llywelyn, of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales, has been re-elected for a second term.

The election was held Thursday, 06 May 2021, at the same time as the Senedd Cymru elections.

In order to follow all coronavirus regulations, the count for this election was held on Sunday, 09 May 2021.

The announcement was made in Ceredigion, at the Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul.

Dafydd Llywelyn, was first elected as one of the two new Plaid Cymru PCCs during 2016’s election and is the PCC for Dyfed-Powys Police. 

The force covers over half the land mass of Wales and during the PCC elections had the highest turnout of all PCC elections at 49%.

Mr Llywelyn is a former Principal Intelligence Analyst and worked within Police Intelligence for many years before, in 2014, moving to Aberystwyth University to lecture on Criminology. His career has provided him with considerable insight into core policing issues as well as an understanding of what the public want from the service. He has pledged to reinvest in CCTV and prevention activities and has refused to appoint a deputy.

Standing against him were three other candidates – Jon Burns (Conservative); Philippa Thompson (Labour) and Glyn Preston (Welsh Liberal Democrats).

The results for Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner’s elections were as follows:

1st Round

Jon Burns (Conservatives); 69,112

Dafydd Llywelyn (Plaid Cymru); 68208

Philippa Thompson (Labour): 48033

Glyn Preston (Welsh Liberal Democrats) 17649

2nd Round

Jon Burns: 8209

Dafydd Llywelyn: 26280

This was the third time police and crime commissioner elections have been held. The election was originally due to take place in May 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new PCC term begins on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCCs must:

  • secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
  • appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force, and if necessary dismiss them;
  • set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
  • set the force budget and determine the precept;
  • contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary; and
  • bring together community safety and criminal justice partners, to make sure local priorities are joined up.

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Counting underway following police and crime commissioner vote

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COUNTING is under way to find out who will be the four police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in Wales today (Sunday, May 9).

Polls were held on Thursday for South Wales Police, Dyfed-Powys Police, North Wales Police and Gwent Police alongside the Senedd election on Thursday (May 6).

With the exception of the North Wales Commissioner, all the incumbents are running again.  

The rules of the election are that unless a candidate gets more than 50% of votes in the first round of counting, then all but the top two candidates are eliminated from the election, and secondary votes on the ballot paper are then counted.

In Pembrokeshire the count is taking place for the Preseli constituency and the West Carmarthenshire and South Pembrokeshire constituency at the County Show Ground.

When will the news Commissioner be sworn in?

The swearing of the oath will also take place today, Sunday (May 9), and the elected Police and Crime Commissioner’s new term in office will start on May 13.

“The Police and Crime Commissioner Elections (Declaration of Acceptance of Office) Order prescribes the form of words that the elected Police and Crime Commissioners will be required to declare before they take office,” said a PCC spokesperson.

“The term of a person elected as a PCC at an ordinary election begins on the seventh (calendar) day after the day of the poll, and ends with the sixth (calendar) day following the subsequent poll.

“The term for incumbent PCCs should cease on May 12, and the newly or re-elected PCC will commence in office on May 13.

What is a Police and Crime Commissioner?

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were elected In 40 force areas across England and Wales. Every force area is represented by a PCC, except Greater Manchester and London, where PCC responsibilities lie with the Mayor.

The role of the PCCs is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing.

PCCs aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their force area.

PCCs have been elected by the public to hold Chief Constables and the force to account, effectively making the police answerable to the communities they serve.

PCCs ensure community needs are met as effectively as possible, and are improving local relationships through building confidence and restoring trust. They work in partnership across a range of agencies at local and national level to ensure there is a unified approach to preventing and reducing crime.

Who are the candidates?

Standing again: Dafydd Llywelyn

The incumbent, Dafydd Llywelyn, was elected as one of the two new Plaid Cymru PCCs during 2016’s election and is the PCC for Dyfed-Powys Police. 

The force covers over half the land mass of Wales and during the PCC elections had the highest turnout of all PCC elections at 49%.

Hoping to be re-elected, Dafydd is a former Principal Intelligence Analyst and worked within Police Intelligence for many years before, in 2014, moving to Aberystwyth University to lecture on Criminology. His career has provided him with considerable insight into core policing issues as well as an understanding of what the public want from the service. He has pledged to reinvest in CCTV and prevention activities and has refused to appoint a deputy.

Standing against him are three other candidates – Jon Burns (Conservative); Philippa Thompson (Labour) and Glyn Preston (Welsh Liberal Democrats).

Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCCs must:

  • secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
  • appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force, and if necessary dismiss them;
  • set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
  • set the force budget and determine the precept;
  • contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary; and
  • bring together community safety and criminal justice partners, to make sure local priorities are joined up.

How the voting works

If there are more than two candidates, the Police and Crime Commissioner is elected under the supplementary vote system: 

  • A voter can vote for a first and second choice candidate they want to elect.
  • If a candidate obtains more than 50% of the first choice votes, they will be declared elected.
  • If no candidate obtains more than 50% of the first choice votes, all candidates except for those in first and second place are eliminated.
  • The ballot papers showing a first preference for one of the eliminated candidates are checked for their second preference.
  • Any second preference votes for the remaining two candidates are then added to their first preference votes and the candidate with the most votes is elected.

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Multiple RNLI lifeboats launched to aid yacht in distress

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THE NEW QUAY RNLI lifeboat has rescued a stricken yacht, with the casualty evacuated by helicopter. 

On Saturday (May 8) New Quay lifeboat ‘The Frank and Lena Clifford of Stourbridge’, was paged at 9.06am by HM Coastguard to search for a yacht in difficulty 10 miles west of Aberystwyth with two persons on board. 

The Mersey class lifeboat launched at 9.20am with seven volunteer crew members on board to search for the 9m vessel, which had travelled up from Pembrokeshire, in a moderate south-westerly wind. 

The yacht, on passage from Fishguard to Aberystwyth, was experiencing mechanical and communications problems, and had failed to berth in Aberystwyth marina due to the tide. The severely fatigued crew had raised the alarm by mobile phone when they realised they were in trouble, struggling with the winds and poor visibility.  

Daniel Potter, New Quay RNLI Coxswain said, “We proceeded to the position given but on arrival another position was given 10 miles further north, and then again 5 miles north east. We searched for over an hour for the vessel as they had become lost in the deteriorating weather conditions. Barmouth lifeboat was also requested to launch but stood down as we located the vessel.  

“When we located them, we had to act quickly as we found her close to shore and in danger of going aground on the reef near Tywyn. I had one opportunity and we took it, we set up a tow and pulled her into deeper water.  

“We then requested to launch Aberdyfi’s lifeboat to assist us with getting crew on board as we had concerns over the health and wellbeing of the stricken vessel’s crew. Two volunteer crew from Aberdyfi and one from New Quay boarded the yacht. They assessed the casualty and it was decided as a matter of urgency to evacuate one of them. We requested an immediate helicopter evacuation, and HM Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 936 arrived and transferred the casualty to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. 

“It was quite an ordeal for the yacht, but it wasn’t over as we had to get the last of the crew members and the boat to safety. Aberdyfi lifeboat then transferred another one of our crew onto the yacht when they took theirs off and returned to station, and we began the tow to Aberystwyth.  

“On approach to Aberystwyth we requested assistance from Aberystwyth lifeboat who launched and met us outside the harbour to transfer the tow into the marina, and to deliver us much needed supplies, fish and chips! 

“We then headed home and returned to New Quay by 6pm, nine hours after launching. It was a very long day in difficult conditions. However, it was a fantastic effort by everyone, and we want to say a big thank you to all lifeboats and crew involved, and the helicopter. It was an amazing team effort by all.” 

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI Operations Manager added, “We would like to give our thanks to all the lifeboat stations involved. It was a great joint endeavour by Cardigan Bay lifeboat stations. The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea and our volunteer crew are on call 24/7. Remember if you find yourself or see anyone else in trouble at sea or on the coast call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.” 

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