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ASSC shows numerous council STL licensing policies are unlawful as eleventh-hour changes are made

The efforts of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) has resulted in Scottish councils changing parts of their short-term let licensing policies.

 In August 2023, the ASSC wrote to four councils – Argyll and Bute, Glasgow, Highland and Dundee – detailing numerous areas where their licensing policies were potentially lawful. In response, they undertook reviews and changes have been made.

In Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow City Council has withdrawn the requirement for all flats to have planning permission in place prior to applying for a short-term let licence. This will remove one of the most significant barriers to applying for a licence. The Council has also taken on board ASSC comments regarding layout plan requirements, confirming that scaled drawings are not required. Their Licensing & Regulatory Committee met on 20th September to agree amendments to their policy, following advice from senior counsel.

On the same day, Argyll and Bute Council’s Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Committee met to discuss revisions to their licensing policy, addressing concerns flagged by the ASSC. These include measures to assist with the transfer of a property, the confirmation that formal architectural drawings are not required, and the removal of additional conditions relating to the provision of bicycles, boats and watercraft and outdoor play equipment.

Meanwhile, Dundee City Council has agreed to review their policy and present recommendations to the Full Council on 25th September. A consultation has been proposed, despite this falling after the 1st October deadline for licensing applications. The council confirms that they have done this on the back of the ASSC’s letter and stress that “they are listening”.

Finally, Highland Council are in the process of obtaining external legal advice regarding elements of their licensing policy and have conceded that some parts of their guidance are factually incorrect and will be amended. Separately, the Council’s planned Planning Control Area for Badenoch & Strathspey remains in hiatus while they await receipt of legal opinion.

 Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, commented:

 “We are pleased these councils concede their policies are flawed after action taken by the ASSC. As an organisation, we will leave no stone unturned in challenging policies which are unlawful, onerous and damaging to our sector.

 However, it is regrettable these changes were forced at the eleventh hour. Many operators will have already decided enough was enough and closed their business for good due to the regulatory burden imposed by licensing, hitting local economies in the process.

 Those remaining in the sector will have already spent large sums on things like floor plans which are now deemed to be totally unnecessary, at a time when small businesses are under severe cost pressures. No business can plan and prepare under these circumstances imposed by the licensing scheme.

All of this underlines the policy shambles of the Scottish Government’s short-term let licensing scheme. The legislation remains incompetent and not fit for purpose and this sorry episode is yet more evidence of the need to pause and review licensing as soon as possible.”

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