Council discussion on Air BnBs gets heated

A discussion about the impact of unregulated accommodation raised strong emotions with one councillor accusing local authorities of “neglecting their duties” by not inspecting Air BnB properties.

Conwy county council’s economy and place scrutiny committee meeting heard a report from officer John Merrick which highlighted the growth of Air BnB properties in the county from 135 in 2016 to 1,627 in 2019.

Councillors heard Welsh Government was looking at whether to implement a recommendation, contained in a Gwynedd council report on holiday homes, which suggested implementing a mandatory licensing scheme for them, similar to one introduced for homes of multiple occupation (HMOs).

The boom in short-term holiday lets on the platform was a problem highlighted by Llandudno Hospitality Association, who said it was having a detrimental effect on trade.

After Mr Merrick mentioned no one was required to check the quality of accommodation on platforms such as Air BnB, Cllr Bob Squire (Eirias ward) disputed the claim.

He said: “Environmental health officers have power under the health and safety act to check holiday homes.

“But our environmental officer have more than 3,000 properties to inspect – can you imagine if they had to check (Air BnBs) as well?

“Councils have the power to inspect them already but they are neglecting their duties.

“There are powers within health and safety and planning to make sure they are registered.

“All through my career we have had housing legislation but that seems to be disappearing like health and safety – this situation can be stopped.

“These people who have these properties are dictating the law and making fools of us.”

Cllr Squire accused the council of “not doing things properly” by failing to apply powers it already had to crack down on unregulated holiday lets.

Visibly emotional about the subject, he said councils did not have the staff to apply the rules and this needed to be addressed.

He added: “This is what members are not realising – I’m sorry but I’m getting angry.”

Council leader Charlie McCoubrey promised to circulate a report by Dr Simon Brooks, which Welsh Government had already received, containing 12 recommendations to address second home ownership and unregulated holiday accommodation.

He said similar accommodation had been required to register in Northern Ireland for years and suggested Welsh Government “pull its finger out” and do the same.

The committee resolved to get the leader write to Welsh Government asking for unregulated holiday accommodation to be required to register “as a matter of urgency”.

It also agreed to ask a task and finish group looking at a potential tourism tax to also consider local issues relating to unregulated holiday accommodation.

The council will also lobby Welsh Government for a mandatory licensing scheme for holiday homes to be introduced across Wales.

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno