Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Society warns performers are at ‘risk’ from holiday lets clampdown

Organisers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have warned a long-awaited crackdown on properties being used for short-term lets in the city is an “urgent” threat to the future of the event.

The charity has warned that strict new rules backed by the city council and the Scottish Government will “undoubtedly” impact on the availability and affordability of temporary accommodation in the city.

The organisation has already started gathering facts and case studies to demonstrate the “risk” to performers from the new curbs, which have been debated and discussed for years.

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And the society has pledged to lobby “decision-makers and policy-makers” to try to find “positive and sustainable solutions” amid growing concerns that performing in the event will become unviable for any artists and performers.

The 75th anniversary edition of the Edinburgh Festival was staged in October. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
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Nearly 400 artists and producers have raised concerns over the past few weeks about the costs involved in taking part in the festival after a survey was launched by the Fringe Society.

However under new legislation, licences will be required to operate short-term lets in the city, even if it only involves letting out a spare room.

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The council has warned there will be a presumption against these being granted in tenements and other “shared door” properties.

Other legislation means planning permission will be needed if an entire flat or house is intended to be used as a short-term let property.

A news bulletin sent to Fringe performers this week states: “We've been gathering a lot of artists' concerns around accommodation costs at the Fringe. This issue has only grown in urgency – following the 2022 festivals season, changes in legislation have led to Edinburgh becoming the first short-term lets control area in Scotland.

"The policy has been drafted with the intention of easing housing issues for Edinburgh residents. However, it will undoubtedly also impact both the availability and affordability of temporary accommodation in August.

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"Recognising the risk this poses for Fringe artists, we're gathering facts and case studies to illustrate the scale of the challenge."

The “soaring costs” of accommodation in the city was blamed by leading venues for a drop in ticket sales this year compared to 2019 amid warnings it is the biggest risk to the event’s future. Concerns were also raised at the annual general meeting of the Fringe Society.

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The society’s bulletin adds: "We believe there is a willingness from all parties to find ways forward that would be a win-win for all of those who have raised concerns about the short-lets accommodation situation in Edinburgh, and the creative community who want to be part of its world-renowned festivals every August.

“We will take the time now to advocate on behalf of Fringe artists – presenting the evidence, having conversations with officials and exploring what can be achieved for 2023 and beyond. We recognise how important this issue is to you.”

Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy said: “This August, accommodation was cited by artists as being the single biggest issue facing future participation in the Fringe. Since then, we have undertaken a significant phase of research, to establish the true need across artists, media and workers at the Fringe.

“We fully recognise the risk that accommodation availability and affordability pose for the access and inclusion of artists in our Festivals, while recognising the needs and views of Edinburgh's residents."

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