Edinburgh to become Scotland's first short-term lets control zone

Edinburgh is to become Scotland’s first short-term lets control zone after the Scottish Government approved a bid by city leaders.

The move aims to crack down on Airbnb-style accommodation, which has exploded in the city in recent years, and preserve the character of neighbourhoods.

It means anyone letting out an entire residential property that is not their principal home on a short-term basis will have to apply for “change of use” permission through the planning process.

Council leaders say around a third of all short-term lets in Scotland are located in Edinburgh.

Keylocks are a familiar sight across Edinburgh, which critics say has been blighted by Airbnb short-term lets

The new control zone will come into force in September.

But industry figures labelled it “wholly disproportionate” and warned it could devastate the sector.

SNP housing secretary Shona Robison said: “Edinburgh was the first local authority in Scotland to propose a short-term let control area and Scottish Government approval represents a major step forward.

"We have committed to give local authorities the powers to address concerns about the impact of commercial short-term letting in their communities, should they want to do that.

"This is an example of that local choice in action – supported by the majority of respondents to the council’s consultation on the proposed designation.

“I recognise the important role which short-term lets play as a source of flexible and responsive accommodation for tourists and workers, which brings many benefits to hosts, visitors and our economy.

"However, we know that in certain areas, particularly tourist hot-spots, high numbers of lets can cause problems for neighbours and make it harder for people to find homes to live in.”

Cammy Day, leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, said a cap on the number of Airbnb-style lets should also be considered.

He said: “This is the news we have been waiting for after years of leading the way in campaigning for change. I am delighted that ministers have now, finally, answered our calls.

"It paves the way for Edinburgh becoming the first short-term let control area in Scotland.

"For far too long, too many homes have been lost in our city to the holiday market.

"In fact, around a third of all short-term lets in Scotland are here in the capital, so their associated issues of safety, anti-social behaviour and noise have a detrimental effect on many of our residents.”

He added: "This change to policy and will help us to control the number of properties being unsuitably used in this way and help us to better balance housing supply for local people all year round, without stopping people from renting out rooms to performers during the festivals.

"We will now progress implementing the changes and the next step should be looking at whether we can apply a cap on numbers, too.”

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said it was “extremely disappointed” by the move.

She said: “Our members in the capital, who help to generate more than £70 million each year, will be rightly concerned about what this means for their livelihood in what is already a challenging regulatory and economic environment.

“Self-catering properties have been a long-standing presence in Edinburgh for decades, providing a vital source of alternative accommodation during major events. It is therefore somewhat ironic that this news comes in the same week that many festival performers and visitors will be arriving in the city.

“We believe that a city-wide control area is wholly disproportionate. As we have warned, the council’s unevidenced plans are seriously deficient and will simply drive many small businesses to close without achieving their policy objective, as well as damaging Edinburgh’s position as a world leading festival city.

“It is with deep regret that a key component part of the Scottish tourism industry has once again been completely disregarded by policymakers. This move, coupled with the Government’s onerous licensing scheme, has the potential to be absolutely devastating for our sector in Edinburgh.”

An Airbnb spokesman said the vast majority of hosts in Scotland are “regular people who occasionally rent one home to boost their income”.

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