Short-term lets rule scuppered

Trade anger as tougher planning law is voted down

The proposal was voted down by MSPs

TRADE groups and politicians have slammed the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives for torpedoing tougher planning laws for commercial short-term lets in Holyrood last week.

Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman lodged an amendment to the Planning (Scotland) Bill that would have required those letting out an entire property on a short-term basis via the likes of AirBnB or HomeAway to apply for planning permission to convert it from residential to commercial use.

However, in the final stages of debating the Bill, Scottish Conservative MSPs, along with all but two SNP MSPs, voted against the amendment. They instead voted for Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton’s amendment, which hands power to ministers and planning authorities who can designate all or part of an area as a short-term let ‘control area’ – and only properties within these areas would be required to apply for planning permission when letting out an entire property on a short-term basis.

Speaking in Holyrood last week, Wightman said his “modest reform” to short-term lets had been “sabotaged by Borders-based MSP Rachael Hamilton with the connivance of the SNP government”.

“AirBnB, HomeAway, and all the other companies have lobbied hard against regulation of this out of control industry all across the world,” he said. “And they’ve got what they want: they’ve got an anodyne amendment which is worse than the status quo.”

Hamilton stated that there is a need for “flexible and affordable accommodation right across Scotland”, adding that the introduction of short-term let ‘control areas’ is “to target the requirement for planning permission to the most pressured areas where the local authorities can choose whether or not to promote short-term let ‘control areas’, within which planning permission will always be required”.

But trade groups have renewed calls for regulation of the sector.

Paul Waterson of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said: “In terms of business, I think [short-term lets] are our Amazon. So, it should be regulated; planning should definitely be brought into it. It’s unfair competition.”

Waterson also criticised the move to introduce short-term let ‘control areas’, stating that it “lacks a bit of common sense” and will result in a “patchwork effect” across the country.

Willie Macleod of UK Hospitality said short-term lets must operate on a level playing field. He argued that, in planning law, a new use classification should be created to regulate the sector as this would allow local authorities to “identify which regulations were relevant to this type of use, register the accommodation, and you could ensure it is compliant with all the relevant regulations – including liability for non-domestic rates and income tax”.

In a joint statement, the Short-Term Accommodation Association and The Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers said they “are happy to work with the outcome of the recent planning Bill process”.

A government consultation seeking views on regulating the short-term letting sector is open until July 19.