One in 477 Edinburgh short-term lets has planning permission

UK: According to a study from Homes First, only one in 477 short-term let properties in Edinburgh has proper planning permission.

Homes First’s report was spearheaded by Charlotte Maddix and Andy Wightman MSP, and claimed there had been a “staggering pattern of unlawful activity” in the Scottish capital.

The survey used scraped data from Booking.com, crowdsourced data from Edinburgh residents, and data scraped from a website called InsideAirbnb. Most of those properties in the survey are in Old Town, New Town and Leith.

The data covered around 477 properties in total, of which only a single property had planning permission. It estimates the total number of short-term lets in the city is at least 6,587.

In a tweet announcing the survey results, Wightman said: “This survey reveals the epic scale of unlawful business operating across the City and the rapacious character of many of the operators. With all businesses allowed to open on 15 July it is important to report what is happening.”

According to the data, 45.4 per cent of those surveyed said there were at least two short-term lets within their building, while 21.7 per cent noted over three. The survey further revealed that many properties were reaping tax benefits, taking £4.7 million worth of tax breaks from the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

Edinburgh is one of the places with the largest proportions of Airbnbs in the country, with data from 2019 showing that one in ten properties in the city centre were listed on the website. Many officials moved to limit the number of short-term lets in response, culminating in January when the Scottish government committed to overhauling the legal framework around these properties.

The market has struggled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with many properties returning to the long-term market. Edinburgh Council itself suggested changing short-term rental regulations in its plan 2030.

Neil Gardiner, planning convener for Edinburgh Council, told The Edinburgh Evening News: “We’ll always use the existing powers we have through planning enforcement to investigate cases reported to us as we are very clear that we want properties unlawfully taken out of housing supply to be returned to being people’s homes. This is very resource intensive though and we’re continuing to pro-actively work with the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing regime which will give us far greater control over the sector in the future.”