Home » Second homes aren’t the problem; stupid Councils are
Comment Matthew Paul

Second homes aren’t the problem; stupid Councils are

If you’re reading this over the weekend, perhaps sitting in the garden of your holiday cottage and thinking what a lovely place Pembrokeshire is, watch out! Councillor Michael Williams of Tenby North ward is coming to get you.

Cllr Williams, who describes himself (like the author of this column) as being educated “to a limited extent” at Greenhill School in Tenby, is head honcho of the Plaid Cymru group on Pembrokeshire County Council, and one of the outstanding leaders of Pembrokeshire’s Coronazi community. He spent most of the pandemic stirring up hate against anyone with the temerity to own holiday property in Pembrokeshire, and now wants to see their houses taken off them altogether.

Right from the word go, Cllr Williams was snarling in the papers about the “stupidity and irresponsibility” of people who visited Tenby, and demanding a ban on second home owners visiting their houses.

He got what he wanted, and though there has been not one shred of evidence between 23 March 2020 and today that second home ownership, anywhere in the world, has been the slightest driver of increased infection, kept banging on about the scourge of second home owners throughout the Covid restrictions.

In January, Cllr Williams described how his heart sank when the English dared to venture back to Tenby: “I fail to understand, even allowing for the admittedly limited intelligence of some of these selfish, irresponsible, and sometimes arrogant individuals, who say when challenged that it is “our right to use our properties.””

They probably say this because it really is, in fact, their right to use their properties, even if Cllr Williams thinks it’s his right to tell everyone else in Pembrokeshire what to do with them.  

So what’s Michael Williams’ beef with second homes? Of course, there’s the usual Plaid trope of the ‘catastrophic’ damage being done to Welsh Language communities.

If Tenby is a Welsh-speaking community, this escaped the attention of many people who grew up in the area. Cllr Williams doesn’t seem to be too hot at speaking Welsh himself. You would be hard pushed to find a Welsh-speaking community anywhere in South Pembrokeshire, which hasn’t spoken Welsh since around the year 1098. Back then, English wasn’t even recognisable as the language spoken almost everywhere south of the A40 today.

But hey, historic grievances are historic grievances, however dodgy the history propping them up. So, to save local communities where “irreparable damage is being done too often to what is a unique culture and way of life”, Cllr Williams wants someone –him, preferably– to compulsorily purchase second homes from their owners and redistribute them among what he no doubt imagines will be a grateful and eternally thereafter Plaid Cymru-voting local populace.

Which are the houses that get snapped up as holiday homes? They’re usually the picturesque, impractical ones. The ones that their Pembrokeshire owners allowed to tumble down over several decades of decline and neglect. The ones the locals smothered with pebbledash some time around 1956. The ones with creaky sash windows that anyone with any common sense would rip out and fit UPVC. The ones which ceased to be useful as family homes when families started insisting on indoor lavatories. 

Then these Saes bastards come down to Pembrokeshire with their money and their pretensions and their prissy aesthetic sense, buy these places and do them up. You can see why Cllr Williams is seething. Every stone wall stripped back of concrete and repointed with hydraulic lime, every oak window and door reinstated, every last slab of slate put back onto a derelict barn roof is a slap in the face to the hard-working local people who let the places fall down.

To be fair, Cllr Williams does seem to get some of these points and only intends to expropriate the poorer second home owners who have bought more modest properties; this being what passes in Nat-speak for fairness.

But it’s not just that English people with no right to be in Pembrokeshire buy houses here that gets Cllr Williams’ goat. He’s also very concerned about “this influx of individuals who know nothing of our history, who move here because they say they love the area and within very few years campaign to change our basic values.” 

In furtherance of this, not only do these evil scum buy money-pit houses that no young family could afford to maintain and make them offensively pretty; some are designing enough even to participate in public life, where they “inveigle themselves into positions, without offering themselves for public election, where they can inflict their often alien values upon the local communities.”

From someone who wants to inflict the alien value of ‘little Wales’ nationalism on an area which has had its own distinct identity for nearly a millennium, this is a bit rich. 

There is plenty of scope, in Pembrokeshire and elsewhere, for second homes to exist alongside thriving local communities. Ethnic cleansing is not the way to go about achieving it.

Local authorities have the power to raise funding on the open market or from central Government –and at near-zero interest rates– to purchase land and build homes. There is an undoubted need for additional housing for families in Pembrokeshire and elsewhere, and building houses to rent out to people who need them is an activity that makes plenty of people in the private sector a good deal of money. What is it about local authorities –who even have the luxury of being able to grant themselves planning permission– that makes them too stupid or incompetent to do the same thing?

Then you take a look at the sort of folk who make the decisions in local authorities –hi, Cllr Williams!– and the answer becomes abundantly clear.

Anyone who thinks that the answer to housing shortages in Wales is to confiscate second homes off the English is speaking from pure prejudice. If this is how Welsh Nats say ‘croeso’ to our visitors, it would be better if they said nothing at all.