Old Town tenement landlord ordered to remove short-term let key boxes

The ruling to remove key boxes from an Old Town tenement has been upheld
The ruling to remove key boxes from an Old Town tenement has been upheld
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CAMPAIGNERS who fear the impact of short-term lets on the city centre have welcomed a decision to dismiss a landlord’s appeal against the city council’s order to remove key-safe boxes from the front door of an Old Town tenement.

The council issued an enforcement notice in January ordering the removal of the 11 key boxes attached to the common entrance at a five-storey listed tenement in Upper Bow.

One landlord, Paul Dimarco, who owns several of the 21 flats in the stair, appealed and sent photographs showing other examples of Old Town tenements with multiple key boxes, arguing he had been unfairly singled out and any action on the issue should be city-wide.

But Mike Shiel, the Reporter from the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA), said while he understood the argument for a consistent approach, he was only able to deal with the case involved in the appeal.

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And he ruled: “I find that the key safe boxes detract from the appearance of this listed building, and fail to preserve its features of architectural or historic interest.”

Mr Shiel added: “I appreciate the removal of the key safe boxes may result in some inconvenience to the occupants of the flats in the building and recognise that there might be a need to address the wider issue resulting from a proliferation of such boxes at the entrances to common stairs and to consider whether some alternative, acceptable solution can be found.

However, that is a matter for the planning authority to consider in the first instance.”

Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman, who warned earlier this year most of the key boxes in doorways across the Capital had probably been installed unlawfully, said the DPEA decision was very encouraging.

He said: “It follows a series of enforcement actions over the past few months which have been appealed and all upheld.

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“It shows people should have planning consent in most cases for short-term lets and for fixing things to the wall.

“And it shows when the council does take action the law is upheld. It will encourage people to believe if they complain over a planning breach the council will respond.”

City planning convener Neil Gardiner said: “The sole use of residential accommodation for commercial short term lets is having a damaging impact on our communities, on housing supply, and on individuals who are suffering high levels of antisocial behaviour.

“We pledged some time ago that we would use all the powers available to us. If a property is solely or mainly being used as a short term let it would require planning consent as a change of use from residential. And in some circumstances attaching key safes to a listed building requires listed building consent.

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“We are following up when breaches are reported to us. It’s important that owners understand that they can’t just run a sole commercial let from a residential property with no consequences.”