BBC to show Edinburgh Old Town ‘party flat’ hell

Tourists on the Royal Mile. Picture: TSPL
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The growing problem of short-term lets in Edinburgh’s Old Town – a Unesco World Heritage site –is to be investigated by Panorama, the BBC flagship investigative programme.

Andy Wightman, Scottish Green MSP, a land rights campaigner, is appealing for people to come forward with their personal stories to be interviewed, or speak confidentially, to producers for the Panorama Special.

The programme will focus on the impact this form of letting, often used as “party flats” has on individuals and their communities.

This can include antisocial behaviour, lack of housing for local people to live in and buy or rent, as well as loss of community spirit and social isolation for remaining full-time residents.

It will also highlight research carried out by Mr Wightman which revealed approximately 50 per cent of homes in the EH1 postcode which includes areas such as the Royal Mile, the Grassmarket, the Cowgate and South Bridge, will be holiday lets by 2050.

Mr Wightman is calling for tighter regulation of short-term lets by Edinburgh City Council.

“It will be excellent getting this subject national television coverage.

“This has actually been a long-running issue in rural ‘hot spots’ going back to the ‘60s and ‘70s,” said Mr Wightman, author of Who Owns Scotland and The Poor Had No Lawyers.

“Now it’s hit urban areas –and it’s hit Edinburgh with a vengeance.

“It used to be people would rent out their homes over the summer, and there was no problem with that.

“But now there are festivals year-round and online letting platforms are letting out properties all the time.”

“We want the city centre of Edinburgh retained as a residential area. This is one of the reasons it got Unesco World Heritage Centre status.

“We believe if someone wants to start renting out a property this should be deemed as a ‘change of use’ by the council and they should have to apply to the council for permission. This could be refused or granted with conditions.

He added: “It would mean the council would have a policy and each application would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It also opens the way for reviewing permission, say after five years.”

Local residents could then lodge objections.

Michael Allen director of BnBBuddy, an Edinburgh-based Airbnb management company, said he would welcome “intelligent regulation” by the council.

“We are willing to talk to the council and give advice and suggestions, including making sure everyone doing short-term lets has to sign up with an agent.

“Companies like ours can get a bad name because of a very small percentage of people doing it very badly.”

A council spokeswoman, said: “We have written to the Scottish Government and they have advised us they have a panel looking at it, which will make recommendations for all local authorities in due course.”

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