Less than one in five STLs seek planning consent in Edinburgh

Sunday June 4th 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

Less than 20 per cent of short-term lets in Edinburgh have sought planning consent six months on from the introduction of new rules, according to councillors.

The capital became a ‘control area’ for short-term letting in September meaning anyone using an entire property for Airbnb-style accommodation needs to make an application to the council’s planning department.

It forms part of a wider crackdown on holiday lets by the authority, with all hosts required to also seek a licence by October – and have one in place by July next year.

However, new figures have shown that so far only 604 applications have been lodged out of an estimated 5,000 short-term lets (STLs) across the city with just four months to go until the deadline.

A councillor called for action to be taken against “unscrupulous landlords who have chosen not to comply”.

One of the stipulations of the new licensing scheme is that all secondary holiday lets, as opposed to a situation where the operator shares their property with guests, must obtain planning permission or a certificate of lawfulness if used as an STL for over 10 years.

Ben Parker, co-convenor of Edinburgh’s Green councillors, said it was “outrageous” that operators were “choosing to effectively ignore the law by not seeking planning consent”.

He said: “We know that holiday lets are contributing to the city’s housing crisis by driving up rents, and the control area was introduced to try to address that.

“Those struggling to find an affordable home will be sickened by these new figures. Green councillors will continue to take action to try to redress the balance of holiday lets in Edinburgh and advocate for homes for communities, not private profit.”

The statistics, which were requested in advance of a full council meeting being held on Thursday revealed that of the 604 applications, 102 have been granted and 197 were refused whilst 73 were withdrawn.

Independent councillor Ross McKenzie said landlords have had “ample opportunity” to apply for planning permission but the vast majority “have chosen not to bother”.

He said the council’s focus “must move to enforcement of the law”.

He added: “The council needs to be proactive about this – unscrupulous landlords who have chosen not to comply aren’t going to hand themselves in voluntarily, so we urgently need to identify non-compliant properties and close them down.

“I would encourage anyone who is aware of holiday lets that are operating without planning permission to report this.”

Eilidh Keay from tenants union Living Rent Edinburgh said the figures revealed hosts were “clearly not taking this regulation seriously”.

She said: “Ultimately this will come at the cost of tenants and residents of Edinburgh. Though the council says that only 12% of 5,000 landlords have applied, we know that in reality the number of holiday lets is likely to be higher and so the percentage of landlord’s complying likely to be far smaller.

“In any case, these numbers demonstrate a clear exceptionalism that landlords hold, where it is one rule for them, one rule for the rest of us.

“The council’s planning department needs to ensure that they are able to proactively enforce these regulations and ensure that penalties and fines are levied on landlords who do not comply or we will be faced with an explosion of unlawful/illegal short term lets.”

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