Residents victory

Edinburgh wins power over short term lets

mono cyclist Edinburgh Festival
Edinburgh’s Festival creates a demand for short term lets (pic: Terry Murden)

Edinburgh will get new powers to control the spread of short-term residential lets after the Scottish government approved the city council’s bid to change planning rules.

The new regime will be brought into force next month as the council responds to concerns over the detrimental impact of short term lets on local neighbourhoods, particularly through agencies such as Airbnb.

This means the change of use of an entire dwelling, that is not someone’s principal home, to a short-term let will require planning permission. It does not apply to home sharing.

Council leader Cammy Day said it would allow the council to “better balance the housing supply” while allowing householders to continue renting out rooms.

“This is the news we have been waiting for after years of leading the way in campaigning for change. I am delighted that Ministers have now, finally, answered our calls,” he said. 

Cammy Day
Cammy Day: now looking to cap numbers

“It paves the way for Edinburgh becoming the first short-term let control area in Scotland. For far too long, too many homes have been lost in our city to the holiday market.

“In fact, around a third of all short term lets in Scotland are here in the Capital, so their associated issues of safety, anti-social behaviour and noise have a detrimental effect on many of our residents.

“We will now progress implementing the changes and the next step should be looking at whether we can apply a cap on numbers, too.”

The control area covers the entire City of Edinburgh Council area. Where a dwellinghouse is in a control area, a change of use to secondary letting will always require planning permission unless the exceptions set out in legislation apply.

Where the change of a dwelling house to a short-term let took place before the designation of the control area the existing planning 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.

Discretionary powers enabling local authorities to designate short-term let control areas came into effect in 2021. Separate legislation introducing a mandatory licensing scheme for all short-term lets in Scotland was approved earlier this year.

From 1 October new hosts must obtain a licence from their local authority before they operate as a short-term let. Existing hosts have until 1 April 2023 to make an application for a licence, and can continue operating whilst their licensing application is being determined.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said it was “disappointed” by the government’s decision.

“Our members in the capital, who help to generate more thn £70m each year will be rightly concerned about what this means for their livelihood.


“As we have warned, the council’s unevidenced plans are seriously deficient and will simply drive many small businesses to close.”

Government Housing Secretary Shona Robison said: “Edinburgh was the first local authority in Scotland to propose a Short-Term Let Control Area and Scottish Government approval represents a major step forward.

“We have committed to give local authorities the powers to address concerns about the impact of commercial short-term letting in their communities, should they want to do that. This is an example of that local choice in action – supported by the majority of respondents to the council’s consultation on the proposed designation.

“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.”

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