Whether you operate a bed and breakfast, camping or glamping site, caravan resort, holiday chalet, airbnb or any other multitude of visitor accommodation in Wales you’re likely to be interested in the Welsh Government’s consultation on a statutory licensing scheme. The public consultation, which runs until March 17th 2023, is seeking views on the options for delivering a licensing system for all visitor accommodation providers in Wales.
The scope of any such scheme, raising a tourism levy, is proposed to be fully inclusive to both the type of visitor accommodation and the operating period. This means that visitor accommodation likely to be captured by any licensing scheme will include any “room, group of rooms, structure or building, plot of land for siting of temporary transient accommodation, temporary or transient accommodation (caravan, motorhome, tent, or other temporary structure), or boat which is not a person’s fixed address and for which payment is made out of any other benefit exchange” (p.15).
Furthermore, a licence will be needed irrespective of whether the basis on which the accommodation is offered is professional, casual or infrequent. Indeed, as proposed in the consultation, a licence will even be required where visitor accommodation is provided for one night each year. The argument put forward in the consultation document is that “infrequent use should not mean that operators are exempt from meeting certain safety standards because the requirement to protect accommodation users remains equally important” (p.16). However, the consultation does suggest that for one off events in the calendar year a separate licence could be established for such accommodation providers which would attract a reduced fee.
How this licensing system is to be administered could be nationally, locally (through local authorities) or a mix between the two, for example with a national licensing system and the inspection and enforcement of the scheme being undertaken at local authority level. This is referred to as a hybrid option. The Welsh Government are seeking opinions on this and have looked at current similar systems such as Rent Smart Wales. What is clear is that the system will attract a fee as part of the license application. The level of the fee is, again, something which the consultation asks for opinions and comments on. There is a suggestion that fees are stratified by scale or size of the accommodation provided or type of accommodation offered.
The licence would be awarded to providers who satisfy certain criteria, allowing them to provide accommodation to visitors in Wales and to display a licence number at the premises as well as on marketing material1. The list of criteria to be included in the assessment for the licence is one of the elements which the Welsh Government are seeking opinions on. However, it will inevitably include proof of fire risk assessment, gas safety certificates, food hygiene ratings (where food is served at the premises) and planning permission. Given changes to the use classes and scope of permitted development, as well as the ability of local authorities to withdraw permitted developments in areas, understanding the planning status of the accommodation will be paramount.
Alongside this, there is a proposal to include a “fit and proper person” test, similar to that used for the licensing of houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs). Operators will need to demonstrate they are suitable to provide visitor accommodation. Failure to comply with the specified requirements of the licensing regime and/or the licence itself would result in sanctions. These sanctions are proposed to be wide in scope in order to be a proportionate response to the violation. Measures proposed range from a notice of non-compliance, fines, withdrawals or alterations to the licence through to imprisonment.
Whilst the justification for a licensing scheme for all visitor accommodation providers has merit, there are clear business burdens both financially and administratively. This consultation moves the discussion on from whether there should be a regulatory mechanism for visitor accommodation in Wales to how such a system can be best established.
The consultation document is available online at: Statutory licensing scheme for all visitor accommodation providers in Wales (gov.wales) [correct 16/02/23]. Responses can be made directly by using the online form, downloading the form and emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org or posting the form to the address on page 2.
If you provide visitor accommodation or are thinking of doing so and would like planning advice then please contact Rural Advisor.
Dr Hazel Ann Nash