At the second meeting of the Short-Term Let Working Group, on 17th March, the agenda will cover the following:
- Paper 1 – Terms of Reference (updated)
- Paper 2 – Forward Plan
- Paper 3 – Outline structure of guidance
- Paper 4 – Drafting the guidance
- Paper 5 – Survey results
- Paper 6 – ASSC Bed and Breakfast Definition (provided by the ASSC and circulated at their request)
In conjunction with industry stakeholders, the following points will be raised:
Terms of reference
- The whole of the working group should be involved in decisions made by the working group. There should not be sub-groups making decisions on behalf of the wider group under any circumstances.
- The scope of the working group should be narrowed down. Areas which are already part of existing regulations (e.g., fire safety) should not be up for discussion as part of this process.
- Item 6 and 7 of the terms of reference are somewhat contradictory in nature. Item 7 should be changed so that members of the working group can put forward suggestions which are not simply about the licensing scheme which might improve the regulations.
- The timeline given by the Scottish Government is too tight and the whole process would benefit from more time to consider the regulations. In particular, a new Scottish Housing Minister would have, at most, two weeks to consider the working group’s suggested guidance and changes to the legislation, which is far too little time.
- The control zone regulations will come into force before the guidance which is designed to assist their implementation. It is not clear how local authorities will be able to effectively implement the planning system without guidance, nor is it clear how ministers can be expected to consider applications to create control zones without reference to guidance.
- The Scottish Government has communicated to the working group that there will be no immediate impact on hosts and operators when the legislation comes into force. It should relay this communication to hosts and operators to reassure them that they will not have to make any changes to their operations immediately.
Outline structure of guidance
- The title may create unnecessary confusion for hosts and operators. The title is not specific enough, as lots of businesses which have paying guests are not in scope for this guidance.
- The contents page alone is three pages long already. There is a danger that this guidance will be far too long and therefore will not be considered by hosts and operators. The Scottish Government should reflect on how to make the document as simple as possible and also about how it can present information visually wherever possible.
- Pre-existing guidance should be signposted to but not discussed at length within the document.
- The broader issue is that the working group is being asked to structure guidance against a piece of legislation that hasn’t yet been agreed on. The working group should first discuss possible amendments to the legislation, which should then be agreed by the Scottish Parliament, before any guidance is drafted.
Drafting the guidance
- It seems counter-intuitive to discuss the structure in detail when that structure might be subject to change in the course of the working group’s meeting.
- There is concern that the Scottish Government appears to want to develop licensing and planning guidance alongside one another. As the planning and licensing legislation are separate from one another, the guidance should be separate too.
- There is concern that Scottish local authorities seem to be able to issue joint planning and licensing notices. This increases the chance of applications being failed, since an exception to either the licence or the planning permission can lead to both applications being rejected.
- The bottom line is that the working group cannot effectively write the guidance until the legislation implementing the licensing scheme has been agreed by the committee.
- The first task of the working group should be to improve the legislation. The guidance should wait until the legislation has been agreed on.
We look forward to a constructive meeting with the Woking Group on 17th March.
A page for the working group – Short-Term Lets Stakeholder Working Group – gov.scot (www.gov.scot). has been set up. Papers and all the notes of the meetings, will be published once they have been agreed by the group.