TENSIONS in Wales are rising as the housing crisis worsens and thousands of young local people are unable to afford to live locally, while simultaneously seeing homes being swept off the market not for the perfect family home, but for the Ideal holiday home.

The community of Pistyll near Pwllheli is no exception, bearing witness to many houses being swiftly bought following the holiday home craze that worsened during the COVID-19 lockdown. Recently, the local residents of Pwllheli have taken another blow as a community once the news broke that their historic chapel, Bethania, had been listed on Auction House UK to be auctioned off as a four-bedroom holiday home.

Auction House UK tweeted on March 13 2021, “Just look at the position of this unconverted former chapel in northwest #Wales on the #coast near #Pwllheli. Up for #auction with @AuctionHouseSW on 24 March. Register now to bid on a rare find. #Planning in place for a 4 bed home”.

The tweet gained a lot of negative feedback with one Twitter user responding, “It could also be a lovely home for a local family who would love it and be part of the community. Shame on you for this post. We aren’t just here to be made a holiday resort #HawlIFywAdra”. Another wrote, “Why a holiday home? Is it unsuitable as a home for a local family? One who will use local services 52 weeks of the year? Send their children to local schools? Get involved in local activities? Help keep the community alive? Or is it too pricey? Time to control holiday homes”. Another user responded to the post, “We don’t want any more holiday homes. We want homes our young people can afford to buy.”

Planning the Campaign

A topic raised among some of those who responded to Auction House UK’s post was that with the decline in attendance in religious services in Wales, Chapels and Churches are at risk of being sold off to the highest bidder, and that no discussions on what to do with these buildings are ever brought to that community’s attention.

Many feel as a result, that by selling these buildings without community consultation, the communities losing their unique buildings are being undermined and local history is lost. Communities all over Wales have noted that they would prefer that these chapels, churches, pubs etc, stay at the heart of the community.

This is the local peoples’ goal in Pistyll, Pwllheli. They want to buy back the historic Bethania chapel, or Capel Tom Nefydd Williams as it’s also known, through fundraising efforts on GoFundMe (link here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/cronfa-capel-bethania-pistyll.

Their aim is to raise £120,000 to save the chapel from being renovated into a holiday home, thus far having raised over £8,540, before the next auction.

The auction was planned to be held on the 24th of March, but the owners of the Chapel postponed the selling of the Chapel to May, so that people could fundraise the money needed to buy the Chapel.

Historic Background

The Bethania Chapel was built by the residents of Pistyll in 1875 and was the chapel that Tom Nefyn Williams attended, a notable figure in Welsh history who had a profound effect on thousands of people. The historical and spiritual element around the chapel is another reason why the residents of Pistyll are so determined to save the chapel, and feel it’s their responsibility to their forefathers to protect the chapel that was so central to their lives.

The chapel was previously sold to a new owner in recent years with an understanding between the residents of Pistyll, that the homeowner had full intention of living in the Bethania Chapel permanently throughout the year. The locals of Pistyll were content with these arrangements and were shocked to discover the Chapel on Auction House UK.

On their Facebook page, ‘Achub Capel Tom Nefyn Pistyll rhag ei droi yn Ty Haf (Holiday Home), the admins explain, (translated from Welsh), “Salt is really being rubbed into the wound for the residents of Pistyll as history is repeating itself so awfully once again in such a small village. There has been talks already of developing a site for holiday homes in Plas Pistyll which has been happening in the background, this has been approved despite the locals’ best efforts to stop this from going ahead”.

Therefore, the people of Pistyll feel it is even more important to at least have this victory and save Bethania Chapel. Their community is sadly changing rapidly without their control and have taken a stand to protect their village’s history, language and culture from being stripped from them.

Campaigners hope that this would be a turning point in stopping communities from being engulfed by holiday homes and holiday lets. The debate around holiday homes has reached boiling point in Wales, with petitions raising the matter in the Senedd, and the ‘Nid yw Cymru ar Werth’ (Wales is not for Sale) pressure group working to change the tide in Wales.

Aim in the Near Future

The campaign group has until May to raise the funds needed to buy the Chapel for the community, and there is a lot of positive feeling in the group that the campaign will succeed. It looks like the group will reach £10,000 by the end of the weekend. There are numerous ideas put forward by the campaign group at this moment, these ideas include turning the Chapel into a cultural centre, or making it into a hostel where people would stay the night and learn the history of the area.

This could be a pivotal point for campaigners in Wales, and the community of Pistyll. More information about the group’s aims and objectives can be found here https://www.facebook.com/groups/1203485300068943