Lawnmarket flat rent plan rejected amid concerns ‘Victorian rules’ were unenforceable

Councillors rejected the plans for the Lawnmarket flat rent. Pic: Jane Barlow
Councillors rejected the plans for the Lawnmarket flat rent. Pic: Jane Barlow
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A bid to transform an Old Town home into a short term let have been rejected amid concerns that proposed “Victorian boarding house rules” could not be enforced.

The council decision comes as it is revealed more property in the city centre is now available for short term lets than traditional private rented housing.

Sangita Sapkota appealed a delegated decision by planning officers to turn a two-bedroom Lawnmarket residential flat into permanent short term lettings.

Officers turned down the original application due to it having “detrimental impacts on neighbouring amenity”, but Mrs Sapkota took the application to the council’s planning local review body.

The city council believes an influx of short term lets, such as Airbnb properties, are having a “direct impact on the availability and price of private rented homes” in the Capital.

In a report to the authority’s housing and economy committee,  officers said: “There are reported to be more than 9,000 properties in Edinburgh being advertised for short term lets.

“Research estimates that around 10 per cent of private rented sector stock is being used for short term lets with the highest levels of short term lets available in traditional private rented sector areas. In the city centre, more rental stock is now available for short term rent than for traditional private rented sector.”

The Lawnmarket property forms part of an A-listed building in Riddle’s Court. The property is located on the top two floors of a six-storey block of residential flats above commercial ground floor units.

A statement on behalf of Mrs Sapkota, said: “Bookings are generally likely to be by small families, single household, small unrelated groups or business travellers. These types of guests are unlikely to cause any noise or disturbance beyond that expected from permanent residents of a flat.

“The layout and limited physical size of the property does not lend itself to accommodating party activities. Due to the size, nature and proposed letting parameters, there will not be a materially detrimental effect on the living conditions of nearby residents.”

Mrs Sapkota drew up a set of house rules for those using the Airbnb-style accommodation. The rules includes “no parties or events” to be held, no visitors without written consent from Mrs Sapkota and  that all guests are to “respect neighbours and keep noise to a minimum at all times”.

The plans were opposed by the Old Town Community Council, which warned that “due to continuous attrition, there now exists a very serious shortage of residential accommodation”.

In a statement, the community council added: “Edinburgh is rapidly losing its attraction as a living city and these developments certainly do nothing to help preserve or enhance the universal value, quite the opposite.”

Convener of the review body, Cllr Joanna Mowat, said: “If this is that there will be no-one there on site, other than to change bed linen in between visitors, and there will be no other services provided, how they are ever going to enforce any of these conditions is completely beyond me.”

Cllr Alex Staniforth also spoke out against the proposals.

He said: “If we allow this to be a short term let, there’s no way it will continue having the rules of a Victorian boarding house.”

The board voted to uphold the officer’s decision to refuse the change of use application.

LIST OF RULES

No parties or events will be permitted in the property.

Guests will not be permitted visitors to the property without the written consent of the appellants.

All guests will be requested, through appropriate briefing and signage, to respect neighbours and keep noise to a minimum at all times.

The property will be advertised and let out to a maximum of four adults per booking.

The property will be cleaned and fresh linen provided at the start of each stay only.