Edinburgh short-term lets control zone plans approved

Scotland: The Scottish Government has approved proposals to introduce a first-of-its-kind short-term lets control zone in Edinburgh that would limit the number of listings in the city and force landlords to apply for planning permission to change the use of entire residential properties to short-term letting.

The City of Edinburgh Council has long called for the implementation of such a control area and further restrictions on the number of short-term lets. The new planning rules are now set to come into effect in October in a measure designed to maintain the available supply of long-term housing for residents.

Hosts and property owners will still be allowed to rent out rooms in their own properties on a short-term basis.

The council’s planning committee approved the proposals in January, following the launch of a public consultation last September to gauge opinions on the potential letting controls. In total, 5600 people responded to the consultation, with 88 per cent of those saying that they would approve the introduction of such a scheme.

Despite Edinburgh being one of the most popular destinations among travellers visiting the UK, residents have raised concerns that short-term lets have exacerbated a housing crisis in the city and led to an uptick in antisocial behaviour

Scottish Housing Secretary Shona Robison voiced her approval of the scheme: “I recognise the important role which short-term lets play as a source of flexible and responsive accommodation for tourists and workers, which brings many benefits to hosts, visitors and our economy.

“However, we know that in certain areas, particularly tourist hot spots, high numbers of lets can cause problems for neighbours and make it harder for people to find homes to live in.

“The Scottish government considers that the council has adequately considered and responded to concerns raised before seeking approval of the control area designation. We have concluded that the proposed designation would be reasonable,” she added.

In contrast, Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers [ASSC], said that the proposed scheme was “restrictive and anti-business” in Edinburgh. Campbell added that the main issue in the city was the lack of house building, and  that the organisation was “extremely disappointed” with the decision.

She said: “Our members in the capital, who help to generate more than £70m each year, will be rightly concerned about what this means for their livelihood in what is already a challenging regulatory and economic environment.”

“Self-catering properties have been a longstanding presence in Edinburgh for decades, providing a vital source of alternative accommodation during major events. It is therefore somewhat ironic that this news comes in the same week that many Festival performers and visitors will be arriving in the city.

“We believe that a city-wide control area is wholly disproportionate. As we have warned, the council’s unevidenced plans are seriously deficient and will simply drive many small businesses to close without achieving their policy objective, as well as damaging Edinburgh’s position as a world leading festival city.”

“It is with deep regret that a key component part of the Scottish tourism industry has once again been completely disregarded by policymakers. This move, coupled with the government’s onerous licensing scheme, has the potential to be absolutely devastating for our sector in Edinburgh,” she added.