Edinburgh council crackdown on stag and hen flats

Bruce Borthwick
Bruce Borthwick
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LANDLORDS who want to let out “party flats” face being forced to apply for planning permission under a fresh bid to crack down on weekend 
revellers who make neighbours’ lives a nightmare.

Council chiefs yesterday agreed to new planning guidance which could require a change of use application before flats are rented out to stag and hen parties.

And the guidance will say the council will not normally grant permission in the cases likely to have the most serious adverse impact on neighbours.

Residents have been plagued for years by noise and nuisance from party flats where up to 20 people can be crammed into a three-bedroom apartment.

Landlords will now be told a change of use from residential property to “short-stay commercial leisure apartments” may require planning permission, depending on the size of the property, the character of the area and the numbers involved. The policy will be reviewed in six months’ time, but today campaigners claimed the city council’s latest initiative would not work.

Retired veterinary surgeon Bruce Borthwick, who has been forced to call police on multiple occasions because of problems with party flats close to his home in Holyrood Mews, argued the new policy was badly drafted and the wording of the proposed guidance would provide a field day for lawyers because “leisure apartment” was not a recognised term. He said: “This is a step forward, but it is not the correct step forward. It is completely pointless to bring this forward the way it is worded because it’s meaningless.”

Instead he wants Edinburgh to adopt Glasgow’s terminology and introduce a presumption against allowing “short-term serviced apartments” where there are other residents in the block. He said previous attempts to tackle party flats by making it easier to impose anti-social behaviour orders had not addressed the key issue.

“The big problem is the week-in, week-out grind of having 50 new neighbours every week, churning over every 24-48 hours, vans coming in to change laundry,” he said. “There was a tremendous intrusion into our lives, people knocking on doors in the middle of the night because they had lost their keys – that sort of insidious behaviour is not controlled by the antisocial behaviour approach.”

City planning convener Ian Perry said the change in planning guidance was a way of trying to control a situation which the council recognised was still a problem for some city centre residents.

“We cannot guarantee it will solve the problem, but it puts it in a regulatory framework that allows us to tackle some of the issues.”

Tory planning spokeswoman Joanna Mowat backed the latest move, and said if Edinburgh adopted Glasgow’s wording for the policy it could hit flats which were let for up to 90 days and people who were renting out their homes for the Festival.

“The party flats problem is an absolute scourge for some residents,” she said. “But Edinburgh is different from other places and we don’t want to affect Festival or corporate lets.”

Lothians Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said she was pleased the council was looking seriously at a planning solution to the problem of party lets.

“However, the success of these proposals will depend on determination of the council to bring to an end the proliferation of party flats. We need a clear message that the disruptive behaviour which goes along with party flats is unacceptable.

“I will be seeking clarification from the council because residents need to know against what specific criteria the suitability of an application for a party flat will be judged.”