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Should Edinburgh be a Short-Term Let Control Area?

City of Edinburgh Council has issued the following press release:

A consultation is set to begin next month following consideration of a report published today outlining a draft proposal to designate the whole city as a short term let (STL) control area.

If, following the consultation, the Council gives the go ahead and the proposal is approved by the Scottish Government, the new powers would mean all residential properties, which are not an owner’s principle home, being let as STLs in their totality throughout the local authority area would require approval of a ‘change of use’ to a STL from Planning.

Around a third of STLs in Scotland are in Edinburgh.  At the moment, in addition to planning applications made for STLs, to establish whether or not planning permission is required for properties where this is disputed, the Council’s enforcement team looks at each case individually, which is a very lengthy and time consuming process.

The introduction of powers to make a control area, follows the Council calling for new legislation to tighten up the control of STLs to help manage high concentrations of secondary letting where it affects the availability of residential housing or the character of a neighbourhood.

Also, it will help to restrict or prevent STLs in places or types of buildings where they are not appropriate as well as making sure homes are used to best effect in their areas.

If a home has been changed to secondary letting and continually operated as a STL for more than 10 years before a STL control area is designated and no enforcement action has been taken during that time, planning permission is not required. Also, generally, renting out a room/s in your house or letting your property whilst on holiday would also still be allowed if Edinburgh became a STL control zone.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on legislation to introduce a new licensing regime next year, which the Council also called for, to address the issues of safety, anti-social behaviour and noise. These issues have all had a detrimental effect on communities as the number of STLs has greatly increased across the city in recent years.

The proposal is that all Scottish councils will have to adopt a STL licensing system by October 2022. In terms of the Government’s proposed new licensing regime, if Edinburgh becomes a control area it will be a mandatory condition of any licensing application to have made a planning application or to have planning permission already when providing accommodation that requires it.

Cllr Neil Gardiner, Planning Convener, said:

Last year we welcomed that our call for new Scottish Government legislation to control STLs was successful. If the proposals are approved by the Planning Committee, we’ll be in a position where we can push forward and ask our residents, the industry and other interested groups, for their views on making the whole of Edinburgh a STL control area. We’ll be looking carefully at this feedback before the proposal is finalised as the impact of STLs can be felt in communities across Edinburgh.

If the Scottish Government approve the whole city as a STL control zone, we’ll be able to manage the number of STLs in the city as properties being let out in these areas would automatically require to have ‘change of use’ planning permission in place. It’s also good news that the Scottish Government is proposing that when people apply for a licence we can ask for evidence that they have that planning permission. This is something we’re very keen to do and our ‘Choices’ consultation responses for our next local development plan – ‘City Plan 2030’ – showed overwhelming support for control zones.

Combined with the proposed licensing regime due to be introduced next year, if approved, this step forward is in direct response to our hard work in pushing for the powers we know we need to deliver for our communities city-wide.

Maureen Child, Vice-Convener of the Planning Committee, said:

It’s great to see so much progress being made to tackle this issue we have campaigned so hard to address. This is so important as STLs have reduced the city’s housing stock, hollowed out communities and caused numerous issues for residents such as noise and other anti-social behaviour. I look forward to seeing these new powers being used to improve the lives of many of our residents throughout the city.

Further information

What is a short term let?

Details can be found in Annex B of the Scottish Government’s Planning Circular on Short-Term Let Control Areas.

Background on numbers of STLs

There are a significant number of short-term lets in Edinburgh, with the Airbnb platform providing a useful indicator of the scale of this in the city. In the period 2016-2019 there was a substantial rise in the number of both entire properties and rooms registered with Airbnb. Relative to other areas in Scotland the number of Airbnb listings is high making the impact on the city disproportionate. In 2019, 31% of all Airbnb listings in Scotland were in the city of Edinburgh. The next greatest proportion was 19% in Highland followed by 7% in Glasgow City. This illustrates the magnitude of STLs in Edinburgh in comparison to other areas of Scotland.

Read the Planning Committee Recommendations: Short-Term Let Area of Control

Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said:

“Edinburgh Council’s draft proposals for a short-term let control zone covering the entire city are wholly disproportionate and lack an empirical evidence base to substantiate claims that such accommodation has reduced housing stock.”

“Furthermore, their proposals appear to rely on pre-pandemic listings from one online platform only and this does not provide an accurate reflection of the situation.”

“Self-catering properties have been a longstanding presence in the capital for decades, enhancing the tourist offering and boosting the local economy, and should not be used as a convenient scapegoat for policy failures elsewhere. Communities are being hoodwinked into believing that regulating short-term lets out of existence will act as a panacea when in reality, we have failed to build enough affordable homes or bring large numbers of empty properties back into use.”

“Last year, self-catering generated £50m for Edinburgh’s economy. For a city that is renowned for its hospitality, it is very disappointing that local policymakers are looking to solve multifaceted housing challenges in Edinburgh by concentrating on tourist accommodation and damaging small businesses in the process.”

“The ASSC looks forward to supplying evidence to the upcoming consultation by the Council and highlighting the need for balanced, targeted and proportionate regulation for the benefit of all concerned stakeholders in the city.”

This is the death knell to the professional self-catering sector in Edinburgh.

For some actual facts about the impact of short-term letting on housing stock, read our report.

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