In recent years, there have been 569 applications for planning permission / Certificate of Lawful Use (CLUD) in Edinburgh. In April 2023:
- 189 Granted
- 195 awaiting assessment/decision
- 116 Refused
- 65 Withdrawn
- 3 Other status
* The data is based on search of planning portal of the term ‘short term, CLESTl and FULSTL’ it may not include all applications, however, this is statistically representative.
Of the 189 permissions granted:
- 66 Certificate of Lawfulness (where no enforcement action could be taken)
- 123 Full Planning Consent
However, the 123 figure is misleading as when you break this down: 27 relate to properties granted from 2007 to 1 January 2022, mostly main door properties, prior to the introduction of the Planning Control Area (PCA).
For applications since 1 January 2022, there have been 95 approvals, however, 75 of these relate to only 11 addresses, as most of these are for apartments that are all within the same block, therefore the whole building has been designated as Short-Term Let. These are:
- 129 High Street
- 23 Thistle Street
- 9 Albyn Place
- 9 South St Andrew Street
- 140 Princes Street
- 5 Hill Street
- 24 York Place
- 1 Frederick Street
- 129 High Street
- 8 Torphichen Street
- 50 Thistle Street
A further 20 individual addresses have been granted, so a total of 31 addresses have been granted change of use for applications received since March 2022.
For applications received from September 2022 (since implementation of the PCA) only 2 applications have been granted.
Since 1 January 2022, 88 applications have been refused from a total of 87 addresses. 15 of these were CLUDs and 72 were for change of use. Since September 2022, 23 have been refused.
56 applications have been withdrawn since 1 Jan 2022, 15 since Sep 2022. While we cannot say for certain the exact reason why a planning application might have withdrawn, it appears that they are frequently withdrawn after planning advice that they are unlikely to be approved. 100% of the applications withdrawn were for a change of use, giving a good indication that they have been advised they will not be successful.
195 are awaiting an outcome. While most were received in the last 6 months, there are applications going back to June 2022.
For applications received since 5 September 2022, 44 have a decision and are at appeal and 167 are awaiting assessment/decision (30 March 2023).
Retrospective Planning Permission
On 5th September 2022, the City of Edinburgh was designated as a Planning Control Area.
Further to decision letters sent from the Scottish Government to Edinburgh and Highland Councils, these authorities should not be asking for planning permission to be applied for in all cases for those properties that were already operating before a Control Area was designated. This is based on two paragraphs in the letters, as follows:
“A change of use of a dwellinghouse to a short-term let after the designation of the control area will be deemed to be a material change of use by virtue of section 26B of the Act.
Where the change of a dwellinghouse to a short-term let took place before the designation of the control area the existing rules will apply. These require planning permission for a change of use of property where that change is a material change in the use of the property”.
This is reinforced by David Reekie, Planning Regulation Manager, Scottish Government:
“Section 26B applies to any new change of use from a dwellinghouse (which in this context* includes a house or a flat) once the control area has been brought into effect. It does not apply retrospectively.
Section 26 applies to all material changes of use from any use to a short term let, including a change of use from a dwellinghouse, including where these material changes of use from a dwellinghouse to an STL occurred prior to an area being designated a control area.
Retrospective planning permission for a change of use outwith an STL control area is required if the change of use is material and planning permission was not obtained prior to the change of use. If the change of use is not material, then planning permission is not required.” (15th March 2023).
In conclusion, if you exclude the CLUD applications where no enforcement action can be taken, and if you count properties where decisions have been taken on an entire block/address, the following decisions have been made since 1 January 2022:
- Approved addresses: 31 (18%)
- Refused / Withdrawn: 144 (82%)
Applications received from 1 September 2022, the outcomes are as follows:
- Approved addresses: 2 (5%)
- Refused / withdrawn: 39 (95%) with a further 167 awaiting assessment.
In addition to existing and proposed planning considerations, planning applications are now being reviewed in the context of National Planning Framework 4. Policy 30e is now being actively used to reject planning applications:
“e) Development proposals for the reuse of existing buildings for short term holiday letting will not be supported where the proposal will result in: i. An unacceptable impact on local amenity or the character of a neighbourhood or area; or ii. The loss of residential accommodation where such loss is not outweighed by demonstrable local economic benefits.”
This should be seen in the context of empirical data relating to housing in Edinburgh. Short-term lets are often presented as being a leading cause of Scotland’s housing crisis, especially within Edinburgh. However, it is important to place the debate in a holistic context – for instance, noting the number of empty homes in Scotland, demographic changes, and the need to build more homes – while recognising the value of tourist accommodation to the Scottish economy and local communities.
City of Edinburgh Council is using a combination of planning powers and STL Licensing to introduce a de facto ban on self-catering, including long standing legitimate businesses. Despite assurances, the reality that there is no protection for these businesses which benefit the Edinburgh economy to a tune of £91m per annum, underpin the viability of the festivals, and support accommodation needs far beyond tourism alone. Livelihoods are being taken away from professional business operators and the local economy will suffer. There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that these policies will ameliorate the housing crisis.