New laws to end misery of stag and hen groups in flats

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RESIDENTS plagued by drunken revellers claimed victory today as new legislation was put before the Scottish Parliament to crack down on party flats.

Councils will for the first time be able to seek antisocial behaviour notices against flat owners if there is trouble at properties let out for stag and hen weekends.

The council will then be able to impose conditions on the way a flat is operated - limiting the number of people who can stay there, requiring on-site supervision or demanding improved security.

It was two years ago that retired college lecturer Stan Player, 79, petitioned the parliament, telling how he lived in fear every weekend when groups of up to 16 descended on two flats near his home in Grove Street, Haymarket, partying through the night, shouting in the street and urinating in the stairwell.

MSPs are expected to approve the new regulations by the end of March and the new powers will come into force immediately.

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Mr Player said: "It has been a long fight, but it has been worth the struggle.

"Up until now there have been no regulations because there was no recognition of party flats. It was a loophole."

He said the plan to let councils limit the number of people in the flats and insist on better supervision and security were "superb".

But he said he would not give up his campaign until the new system was working to the satisfaction of residents suffering the consequences of party flats.

He said: "More and more people have been getting in touch with us and we've been hearing more and more tragic stories from all over the city about people being disturbed by this sort of thing.

"We feel responsible, so we have to carry on."

Edinburgh Central Labour MSP Sarah Boyack, who backed the residents' campaign, said: "This is a victory and the petition started by my constituents has been a success."

Two incidents of antisocial behaviour linked to a party flat will be enough to allow the council to seek an antisocial behaviour notice.

Ms Boyack said: "This sends a very clear message to managers of party flats that the days of irresponsible lets are over.

"The council will now have the power to take action against the owners and the people managing these flats."

The new legislation covers antisocial behaviour not only inside property, but also in "the vicinity".

Ms Boyack said: "Some of the problems are not within the flats, but people entering or leaving the stairwell, causing damage to the property or creating noise and disturbance in the street.

"This means the new powers will cover situations where you have had a series of disturbances in the street directly related to one of these flats."

Housing Minister Alex Neil said: "Antisocial behaviour linked to a party flat can be hugely disruptive to residents. That is unacceptable.

"When it does occur it can cause misery for many people. That is why this government has decided to introduce a change in the law."

City housing convener Paul Edie backed the new legislation.

He said: "Residents of the city are entitled to live without the fear and nuisance caused by antisocial behaviour."