WITH its sweeping bay and golden sands, Newport in Pembrokeshire is a magnet for holidaymakers in the summer months.
But the resort’s natural beauty is also proving increasingly popular with people in search of second homes – and locals say it is turning their area into a “ghost town” the rest of the year.
They complain the demand for holiday homes has priced them out of the housing market in their home town and made it impossible to find jobs outside the busy holiday season.
It is estimated almost half the residential property in the seaside town is now in the hands of second home owners.
A town councillor, who asked not to be named, said locals can no longer afford the “sky high” asking prices for homes in the area.
He said: "In the old days, people here went fishing for a living but nowadays that's all finished and housing for local people is a big problem.
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"The average price of a two-bed semi around here is approaching half a million pounds and there are not many locals who can afford that.
"I believe the problem is the planning system. Not enough priority is given to local families, who are often on low incomes and don’t have savings.
“A new development of 35 new houses was built here recently, of which 14 had to be put on the rental market. But, of the other 21 homes, more than half of them were bought by people outside the are wanting them for second homes.
“So now, for most of the year, those properties will rarely be occupied. It’s turning the place into a ghost town.”
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Another local, David Vaughan, who is an 80-year-old retired town planner, said: "Prices for houses are high here.
"That's because it's popular in the summer and there isn't a lot of space for building new houses.
"But this is also a planning problem of not taking local people's needs into more careful consideration.
"I know this from personal experience, because my daughter, who lives nearby, would love to buy her own home but is instead forced to look for social housing because that’s all she can afford – and even that isn’t cheap.
“The result is that people who want to work here can't afford to live in the area, so they move away. It’s a vicious circle. The local pubs, restaurants and retailers all complain that they are finding it incredibly difficult to recruit staff."
Shaun Morris, 23, was born and bred in Newport and works in a convenience store in the town centre. He said: "I live with my sister in a rented house and that costs £700 a month.
"I have a girlfriend and hope to settle down one day, but there is a shortage of social housing and I don't hold out any hope that we could get our own house and continue to live in Newport.
"There is certainly no chance I could ever afford to buy a house here – how could I ever save up hundreds of thousands of pounds on my wages?
"Half the houses here are second homes and the owners usually only come in the holiday season. The place is dead the rest of the time. It’s heartbreaking to see so many houses standing empty."
Local artist Neil Croucher, 54, who runs an arts and crafts shop in the town, said: "I love Newport but I can't afford to live here. It's far too expensive so I have to live about half an hour away.
“Our gallery sells work done by 22 local artists but very few of them actually live in the town. Like me, they have to live miles away.
"The shop is very quiet in the off-peak seasons, but we do get locals come to buy something on special days like Christmas and Mothers Day.
"The three-bed house in Aberporth that me and my wife rent costs nearly £900 a month.
"I studied here in mid Wales and always wanted to eventually come and live in Newport. Back then you could buy a tumble-down cottage for about £20,000 but nowadays they are unaffordable.”
A pub restaurant owner who asked not to be named said he and his wife spent months searching for a new chef. “When we eventually found one, he pulled out at the last minute because he couldn’t find or afford anywhere to live,” the boss said.
Katie Morris, 25, who works as a teaching assistant in the local primary school, said: "Me and my brother were born and bred in Newport and lived in this two-bed council house with our mother until she moved out recently to live with her partner.
"Fortunately, she’d registered us as living here, so we can stay. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to live in Newport because there is so little social housing available The waiting list is huge..
"We are both in relationships, but if we wanted to leave and start our own families, goodness knows where we would end living up. It certainly wouldn’t be in the town that we’ve lived in all our lives."
David Fernan, 32, lives in a two-bed council house with his wife and three children on a social housing development on the edge of town.
“There are another 20 houses next to us that are privately owned – the majority of them by second homers.
"We were lucky enough to get this house when it was built a few years ago, but since then we’ve had two more children and it's not really suitable.
“But I don't think we could find anywhere bigger around here because there’s a long waiting list, so we’d probably have to move out of the area. We don’t want to do that because it would most likely unsettle the kids and they’re really happy at the local school.
"Our two eldest have to share a bedroom, but my boy is ten and my girl is eight, so it's not suitable now.
"Our baby, who's one, sleeps with us.
"I'm unemployed at the moment, so I get to do the father role, which is great, but money is very tight.”
Eighteen months ago, more than 150 campaigners against second home ownership in west Wales gathered for a protest in Newport.
They said second-home ownership in the county was pricing local people out of the property market.
In response, the Welsh government said Wales is the only UK nation where local authorities have the power to double council tax rates on such properties.
The campaigners said the average price of a three-bedroom house in the town had passed the £400,000 mark, compared to the average across Pembrokeshire of £227,000.
Rally organiser, Hedd Ladd-Lewis, who was raised in Newport, said the housing market was "out of control" in the area and local people had "no hope" of living in their own communities.
He said: “Newport is a perfect example of what's happening along the whole of the west Wales coast.
"Young people don't have a chance to live in their own communities. The average house price in Newport is £350,000, so what hope do young families who want to remain in their communities have?
"Something needs to be done so everybody has a right to live in their community.”
Pembrokeshire council became the third Welsh authority – after Gwynedd and Swansea – to impose the maximum council tax on second home owners and said it would use the levy to build more affordable homes.
Mr Ladd-Lewis said the move was a "step in the right direction" but called for further measures.
He said: "It won't address the main issue, which is a lack of housing for the local population. We're being pushed out."
"Anybody who wants a second home should have to apply for planning permission, so we can control the percentage of second homes in any given community.”
The Welsh government has also increased the higher rate of land transaction tax, which applies when people buy an additional property.
"We are also working at speed to implement sustainable solutions to what are complex issues," a spokesperson said. "This includes a commitment to build 20,000 new, low-carbon homes for social rent over the next five years.”
It's not the first time beautiful villages have been ruined by rich buyers snapping up properties.
Locals in Wells-next-the-Sea feared the picturesque Norfolk hotspot could become a ghost town within years due to “rich Southerners” snapping up property for holiday homes.
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Meanwhile, residents of the scenic West Sussex village dubbed the 'Venice of England' have been left infuriated by wealthy Londoners who have purchased second homes – only to leave them unoccupied for years.
Plus, the village of Stock in Essex has become known for its "snobby" reputation and expensive properties.
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