Edinburgh rejects action on short-term lets

UK: A Green proposal to compel Edinburgh City council to investigate unlawful short-term lets in the city has been rejected by SNP, Labour and Tory councillors.

The proposal followed a study which revealed that only one in 477 short-term lets in the city had planning permission.

Green MSP Andy Wightman sponsored the study, compiling a list of multiple properties operating without primary residents, against city planning law. The proposed planning amendment brought by the Greens would compel the council to investigate the properties identified in the report.

It was primarily rejected due to its expense and scope. A full investigation could cost the city £220,000, and officials noted that many of the properties may have stopped operating due to the global pandemic.

Neil Gardiner, Edinburgh planning convener, told Edinburgh Evening News: “The team is doing well, it’s winning a lot of cases, it’s meeting the needs of the worst-offending properties, building up evidence, taking them to court, taking them to appeal and winning them. That is very gratifying and a clear signal to anyone who is transgressing that we will be looking into you and an indication people should not indulge in this – there is no long-term future in this.

“Once we get the legislation in place these properties will be returned to homes and strong neighbourhoods restored across the city.”

Edinburgh’s short-term lets have stirred controversy since a 2019 report revealed that one in 10 city centre properties were advertised on short-term letting sites. City councillors quickly responded with calls to legislate the asset class, with officials noting a backlog of cases in late 2019.

Scotland approved legislation this January to provide local governments with the ability to fully legislate short-term rentals. MSPs attempted to fast-track the measures but announced delays until 2022 earlier this month to give municipalities time to create new planning procedures.

Andy Wightman, an advocate for the measure, added: “The Scottish Government’s action on regulating short term lets is welcome and long overdue, but there is no reason for the city council to wait for this before enforcing existing rules when it comes to planning consent in response to my report.”