Agenda item

Agenda item


Notice of items which, in the opinion of the Chair, should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act, 1972.


No urgent items


Question put forward by councillor Chris Evans

Many residents in my ward, as well as myself, have concerns that following the first minister, Mark Drakeford comments, in Wales there will be no more roads projects and Welsh Government have put a stop to over 50 new projects in Wales.  Where does that leave the issue with the Llannerch bridge as we are over three years from when the bridge was taken in the storms.  I am aware that it is written in the Corporate Plan but what commitment have Welsh Government to get this project moving in the right direction to link the villages of Tremierchion and Trefnant. Democratically this bridge was in much need by the majority of the residents that I represent with the cost of living of living at all the time high and the price of fuel still high in many fuel forecourts in the area this link is  really much needed.


Response by Councillor Barry Mellor, Lead Member for Environment and Transport

Councillor Mellor thanked Councillor Evans for his question.  Replacing the bridge was an aspiration in the Corporate Plan.  Talks have taken place with senior officials in the transport division of the Welsh Government.  It is not a case there are to be no more road projects in Wales, Welsh Government have stated they will continue to invest in road infrastructure in cases where it is compatible with the sustainable transport hierarchy and the tests set out in the roads review.  The roads review does not impact on this project because was focused on the development of new road structures.  Llanerch Bridge is an existing highway asset and it is my understanding that maintenance of an existing structure is not affected by the roads review.   In terms of Welsh Government commitment to the project, we have recently received a grant of £380k which enables us to go to the next phase of this project.  We can now go to the detailed design stage and that would take us to the point where we have a business case for a replacement bridge.   This next phase will span 2 financial years and we will, therefore, submit a further bid for funding to complete that phase in 2024/25.  Welsh Government have confirmed this is a multi year scheme and that further funding to complete the next phase is part of their planning assumptions of the 2024/25 financial year subject to formal ministerial approval.  Welsh Government are not going to confirm financial support for reconstruction of the bridge which is likely to cost in excess of £8million before full business case is available but there is a commitment to support the development of the full business case  


Supplementary question from Councillor Chris Evans -  I know the aspiration is there but where is the demand?  With costs of the bridge going into millions why has WG had £155million which was not spent.  It was in the bank account.  Why was it not spent?


The Monitoring Officer confirmed a written response will be provided to the supplementary question.




Question put forward by member of the public, Carol Smith –

Agenda item 5, Cabinet Meeting of 19th July 2023, considered a report on legislation introduced by Welsh Government (WG) to increase the maximum level of council tax premiums for second homes and long-term empty properties.


“The reasoning for the proposals was to increase housing stock in the county and provide more housing for local people” (as stated in the Minutes). How can the Council justify raising the level of premium for private owners when:


a) Denbighshire County Council has 99 long term empty homes on its books, some 15.5% of all long term empty homes in the County (response to Freedom of Information Review 1394_1290), but appears not to be renovating these to provide homes for local people on its waiting list;

b) Denbighshire County Council has more than 44 vacant office buildings “actively being advertised”, in one case for as long as 20 years, despite there being “no market for office accommodation” (response to Freedom of Information Review 1394_1290), yet has not considered converting any of these to residential use to provide homes for local people on its waiting list;

c) “A second home is a dwelling (a domestic property designed to be lived in) that is a substantially furnished property and not a person’s sole or main residence” (response to Freedom of Information Review 1394_1290). This includes self-catering  properties that do not achieve the threshold 182 days occupancy and therefore have reverted, or will revert, to the Council Tax list and be subject to a premium. Nantclwyd y Dre is a dwelling designed to be lived in, is substantially furnished, is not a person’s sole or main residence, and is open for 79 days during 2023; it is on the Business Rates list at a lower rateable value than other similar partially-occupied properties. Is it acceptable for Denbighshire County Council to escape the same financial burden on its own ‘second home’ that it is intent on imposing on privately-owned ‘second homes’?


Response by Councillor Gwyneth Ellis, Lead Member for Finance, Performance and Strategic Assets –


Councillor Ellis thanked Carol Smith for her question.

Number of empty residential properties we have fluctuates a lot.  Currently 90 empty residential properties.  60 are deliberately empty as they are being prepared for redevelopment of the site.  The actual number of empty properties is 30 and of those  most being prepared for new tenants.  It could take a while for these properties to be refurbished.  Some properties not suitable for council use any more and a few of those which are scheduled to be disposed of.  There are 9 of those properties at the moment.


The office properties 44 vacant office buildings.  It is not 44 office buildings but 44 offices or commercial properties, one you mentioned is one small office suite in a building of 9 suites, part of a bigger building.  The commercial properties are rarely suitable to be converted to residential use.


Nantclwyd y Dre ceased to be used as a residential property in the 1980s  and since 2007 it has been listed in the non-domestic rating and has been listed as a museum with a rateable value of £1000.  Plas Newydd in Llangollen is another example listed under non-domestic rating since 2010 and that is listed as an historic house with a rateable value of £1500.   It is the Valuation Office Agency which is the organization responsible for the valuation of properties in the council tax and non-domestic lists and deciding which list they go in to.  If there are properties being used as rental accommodation or businesses the planning permission can be sought to define the type of use of the property and if it meets the Valuation Office Agency criteria then it could be requested to move it on to the business rates list rather than domestic rates.


Supplementary question from Carol Smith –

My property which was, until the end of last month, a self catering property is also on the rating list at the moment because it was self catering.  It is similar in a way to  Nant Clwyd y Dre, very old and also I have been unable really this year because of all the situations with the cost of living crisis, people going abroad again and various reasons like that, to get up to 182 days.  Unfortunately what is a perfectly normal business is now unviable  because of increase in taxes.  I am now expected to provide affordable housing for someone with my property.  That’s exactly what the wording of the Welsh Government legislation and also the minutes of the Cabinet meeting, to increase housing stock in the county.  Why am I spending my money to provide Denbighshire County Council with affordable homes for people on their waiting lists.  I am not the only one, there will be lots of other ones who are going to lose the funding we have put in to those properties, have them taken off us and we are expected then to either sell them cheaply as affordable housing, rent them out as affordable housing.  Why should we be the ones filling in that gap that DCC is not providing.


Councillor Gwyneth Ellis responded that a detailed written answer will be provided.



Question put forward by Anthony Rose –

The issue concerns the raising of the premium on council tax to 100% for second homes/empty houses.   Mr Rose is interested from the perspective of a self-catering Cottage business that fails to achieve 182 days occupancy in a 12 month period.


The question concerns Welsh Government Guidance of March 9th 2023 for Local Authorities regarding Council Tax Premiums on second homes and empty properties, and has several parts : -


1.    Does, or will, this council have a policy for exemptions from the premium ?


2.    If so, what is it?


3.    If not, why not, given that the Welsh Government in its March 2023 Guidance for Local Authorities regarding council tax premiums advocates having a clear policy on whether and how their powers should be used “in the interest of fairness and transparency”?


4.    Will this council consider using its powers to reduce premiums on outbuildings or barns converted to holiday lets as part of farm diversification and annexes or garage conversions that form part of an owner’s primary residence?



Response by Councillor Gwyneth Ellis, Lead Member for Finance, Performance and Strategic Assets


Councillor Ellis thanked Anthony Rose for his question.

We don’t have policy for exemptions, the reason being a specific policy is not required as exemptions from the premium charges are contained in the legislation, the legislation being in the Council tax exemptions for higher amounts Wales regulations.  Under these powers the premium may not be charged on dwellings that fall within 7 classes. 


Properties that have been created or adapted to residential use would be charged unless they fall under one of the 7 classes.  This includes planning conditions which restrict the use of the property to non-residential seasonal holiday lets, ancillary accommodation to the owners main residence or, as mentioned, Section 13A, there are specific exemptions due to emergency conditions or hardship.  Lots of farm buildings which had been converted would have planning restrictions that they could not be used as primary residence.


SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTION put forward by Anthony Rose following response by Lead Member, Councillor Gwyneth Ellis.


12 or 13 years ago, and the Planning Department will help you on this, permissions were given to farmers without restrictions it was just conversion into residential.   These days, more recently, as I understand it, again your Planning Department will help you on this, they have been imposing conditions.  There are a lot of farmers who have done this conversion work a long time ago and they’re going to be subject to this particular hike in premium.   You make point about statutory exemptions, there’s no argument about that, we are talking about discretionary ones and I think the Welsh Government has recognised that there are situations where what is classed as a second home which was a conversion from an agricultural building, for example, does not really play in to the narrative that Wales is trying to make a lot more housing available for people to live in as homes.  


Are you intending to have a policy looking at exemptions or perhaps a better way of looking at it is a reduction in the council tax payable in certain situations?  The guidance is very clear and gives specific examples of the types of property where Local Authorities are encouraged to consider, doesn’t mean they have to do it.  I’m asking, therefore, you will at some stage, set out a policy so people like me, and farmers, can see what is expected and what will happen if we fail to achieve 182 days in the given year.


The Chair, Councillor Pete Prendergast confirmed that a response in writing would be provided.


At this juncture, Councillor Gill German gave a statement regarding RAAC in Denbighshire.


We have been aware that vulnerabilities exist in this material as there is a limited life span.  A safety alert issued by Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) who advised that all Local Authorities look at their buildings.  This was around 2019/20.  In Denbighshire County Council, our buildings  were looked at in 2021 and surveyed for evidence of RAAC and surveys came up negative.  We are happy to review those results in light of recent news and we know now that Welsh Government will be asking us to do that on a formal basis.  Yesterday there was a statement from the Welsh Government that new evidence had been provided to them and it is important to know that this evidence was received from the UK Government yesterday.


Some people may have seen the schools which had been closed on Anglesey, that has been based on the new evidence which was provided yesterday.   DCC are going to look at our buildings again, and we are confident that a good job was done the first time round but we need to ensure our pupils are safe and indeed other public buildings.


In last 10 years made significant investment in school buildings.  There has been a 23% rise in capital spending in school buildings and £90million has been spent in Denbighshire building new schools as part of the 21st Programme and also have new projects lined up through sustainable communities for schools.  Our buildings have been regularly surveyed over the last decade, not only for RAAC but for asbestos, leaking rooves, suitability of buildings for a modern age.  It is regretful that has not been replicated  in England.  There has been a 50% fall in spending over the last decade in England on their schools.  Councillor German reassured members buildings had been assessed regularly over the previous 10 years and don’t anticipate the widespread issues as seen in England.  Proud of what has been done in Denbighshire.


Members requested an update on the commitment to the assessment of buildings.


Councillor German confirmed members would be kept informed.