Concerns at North Wales’ first holiday complex over turning guest house into homeless accommodation
Concerns have been expressed about holiday homes in one of Wales’ best seaside resorts being reallocated to house homeless people.
Llandudno has a holiday accommodation zone which generally prevents hotels, guesthouses and B & Bs from being used for tourism.
But last year the Welsh government introduced contingency planning legislation at the height of the pandemic so that the homeless could be accommodated in holiday accommodation.
This remains in place and the Llandudno Hospitality Association has criticized Conwy City Council for recently placing homeless people on property in the city that was a guesthouse.
They warn that this could trigger a decline in vacation accommodation and lead to the economic and social problems seen at other resorts like Rhyl and Colwyn Bay in recent decades.
Aberconwy MS Janet Finch-Saunders wants the Welsh government to fill the gap in emergency legislation while the LHA has asked the council to stop using holiday homes for this purpose.
North Wales tourism leader Jim Jones has warned he does not want Llandudno to become a “ghost town” with the key economic sector damaged.
Welsh Government Minister Julie James said the permitted development rights had significantly eased the pressure on local authorities, but it was up to councils to decide the balance between stakeholder interests.
She added that since these changes were temporary, if an authority wished to keep the change in use for a longer period, a building permit had to be obtained.
In a letter to the LHA, Conwy City Council Chief Charlie McCoubrey said homelessness was a “very damaging and seemingly intractable problem in Llandudno” and that due to the actions of the City Council it there were no more homeless people in Conwy.
He added that he understood the “need to protect and maintain the vitality and uniqueness of Llandudno as a key engine of our economy”.
Council added that the property had not been used as a guest house since it was taken over by the current owner and was not in use when they entered into the temporary lease.
North Wales Live does not name the property to protect tenant privacy.
In a letter to the chairman of the board, Berin Jones, chairman of the LHA, said: ‘There is a whole body of evidence from all over the UK which shows that the use of holiday accommodation for the accommodation of people needing help; especially those who are homeless or vulnerable; results in a significant and lasting decline in the resort’s economy, which becomes impossible to recover despite millions of pounds of public money injected into the regions in an attempt to revive the tourism economy.
“Essentially, once the goose that lays the golden eggs is slaughtered, it will never come back to life. It could be a single shot or a barrage of shotgun shells, but ultimately the savings are sunk once it happens.
He specified that in the midst of the crisis the association had not opposed the use of holiday accommodation for this purpose but that, in the longer term, people requiring support should be placed in suitable places “which do not are not holiday accommodation and especially not with hoteliers who do not have one. the skills to support these tenants ”.
He added: “This can easily be avoided if your agents agree not to attempt to contract with hoteliers in the vacation accommodation area to locate those who need the support of the local authority, no matter what. the law allows it. “
Aberconwy MS Janet Finch-Saunders said: “While I appreciate the exceptional circumstances which have resulted in the legislative change which allows hotels to change use for temporary accommodation without requesting permission, and there is a demand considerable amount of emergency housing, it is not true that vacancies in housing in the heart of the sector are lost despite the clear protection included in the Local Development Plan.
“The tourism sector is booming in Llandudno. The demand proves that our local planning policy is right to protect the holiday accommodation area and that the Welsh government is now wrong in continuing to allow its legislation to undermine it.
“The circumstances have changed. The law should now change.
“What we are also seeing the Order of 2020 achieve is a potential injustice to residents of temporary housing, as living in high-traffic tourist areas is not necessarily conducive to the relaxed and supported location some people have. may need.
“The local authority has legal obligations to fulfill, including providing temporary accommodation where appropriate, and none of us want to see someone homeless, but the demand should not continue to be satisfied through the use of Welsh government legislation which undermines passed laws. Local development plan for the region.
Jim Jones, Managing Director of North Wales Tourism, said: “Llandudno is one of Wales’ top holiday destinations and has been rightly crowned Queen of the Welsh seaside resorts.
“One of the many reasons people go there is the quality of the abundant supply of beds available for the visitor, not only to stay in the city, but also to use as a base for exploring the rest. from North Wales.
“In order to maintain this status and popularity of the resort, it is imperative that the vacation accommodation areas be protected.
“There’s a reason county councils spend so much time developing local development plans and putting policies in place to ensure we have the right infrastructure in place to meet our future needs.
“Having enough beds to accommodate visitors is one of the key elements we need to ensure that the tourism and hospitality industry can thrive and play its part in securing a prosperous future for the region.
“Hopefully the Welsh government measures are temporary, otherwise we will see Llandudno end up – as has been the case with many other tourist resorts – as a ghost town.”
“We cannot and must not allow this to happen. “
In a letter to the LHA, Cllr McCoubrey said, “Having worked at Rhyl for 25 years and witnessing his decline, I fully understand and support your concerns, but I don’t think your email is quite correct.
“It is undeniable that during this pandemic, we have had a 300% increase in the number of households in emergency accommodation.
“Of these, 50% need housing in Llandudno. I am very proud to say that we are no longer homeless in Conwy. It was a very damaging and seemingly intractable problem in Llandudno in particular.
“Our officers are well aware of the anger this proposal would provoke and I am convinced that they will have explored all other avenues before presenting this proposal.
“As a leader and officially a member of the housing cabinet, I take full responsibility for this situation. I fully understand the need to protect and maintain the vitality and uniqueness of Llandudno as a key engine of our economy. “
Conwy’s counsel said: “Homelessness can happen to any of us for a variety of reasons, such as relationship breakdown, rent or mortgage arrears, flood, fire or the end of a private lease.
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Welsh government and local authorities have taken unprecedented steps to support people who are homeless to ensure that they have been able to access housing with the support that they need. Across Wales, more than 10,000 people, including families with children, have been accommodated since March 2020.
“The past 18 months have been a very difficult time for many families. Conwy Housing Services currently has over 500 people in need of housing, many of them from Llandudno, and we have a legal obligation to ensure that we can place any homeless household in temporary accommodation.
“We were encouraged to seek accommodation to ensure we can adhere to the inclusive ‘no one is left behind’ policy and this property was one of those options and funding comes from the Welsh government.
“Before taking the lease, this property had not been used as a guesthouse or hotel since the current owner purchased it.
“So we did not remove a property from holiday accommodation, because it was not used as such. We are renting the property for a short period (starting July 2021) to use as temporary accommodation to help us meet the high demand for placements and people in need of housing in Conwy. “
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