Campaigners’ joy at Edinburgh Airbnb ban progress

Green MSP for the Lothians, Andy Wightman. Picture: Jon Savage
Green MSP for the Lothians, Andy Wightman. Picture: Jon Savage
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Changes to a new law could mean property owners will need planning permission to turn some properties into Airbnb accommodation – as the council attempts to increase housing stock in the Capital.

The city council has welcomed the sentiment of the amendment to the new Planning Bill as the authority continues its battle with a growing number of short-term let properties impacting on the housing market in the Capital.

Green MSP for the Lothians, Andy Wightman, successfully tabled an amendment to the Planning Bill, calling for property owners to need full planning consent in order to change a main residence into a short-term let property such as Airbnb.

It is thought the law would only apply to properties that are the owner’s main residence – rather than second homes. The amendment was tabled at stage two of the bill, and is still to be considered by all MSPs before being agreed.

The city council believes a licensing regime is the best method of controlling short-term lets – if permission is granted by the Scottish Government.

Under the council’s proposals, a licence would be required for anyone either operating a property on a commercial or professional basis – or for at least 45 days a year. The rules would ensure any owners or operators were “fit and proper” and that certain safety standards were met.

The council also wants the ability to “control or otherwise cap the number of properties licensed across the local authority area or in specific areas of the local authority”.

Cllr Kate Campbell, housing and economy convener, said: “Short-term lets are having a negative impact on many of our residents and on the city. From the hollowing out of communities, antisocial behaviour destroying people’s lives, and the damaging effect they have on rents and our housing supply – it is something we are absolutely determined to tackle.

“We’ve discussed this at length in the short-term lets working group and recognise that there is a role for planning in helping to control short-term lets. That said, I do still think that the best solution for us in Edinburgh, as put forward in our report, is a licensing regime.

“This would allow us to control numbers, apply a fit and proper test for landlords and proper health and safety standards.”

Another proposed change to the Planning Bill could make house building more affordable by countering the price of land increasing once it receives planning permission.

Mr Wightman said: “Giving local councils the power to buy land at existing use value rather than the inflated value caused by planning permission is an important tool in the box. This land should be available for the council to buy at its current value so it can get on with the job of building affordable housing for ownership and rent.”

Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers Chief Executive, Fiona Campbell, said: “The ASSC believes that this amendment has the potential to damage Scotland’s vital traditional self-catering industry, which is worth £723million to our economy each year.”

“While we are disappointed that it has reached this stage, we remain hopeful that common sense will prevail and that robust debate and scrutiny will lead to the amendment falling and the damage it would do to our sector being avoided.

“As a trade body, we remain open to discussion and dialogue with all stakeholders in order to build and maintain a positive environment for all involved.”