Image by GrantBarclay from Pixabay
With the summer months now well and truly upon us, and foreign travel still subject to restrictions and uncertainties, it seems that record numbers of people in the UK are looking to spend their holidays on our own shores. This does though raise particular planning challenges as the level of interest in second homes and rental properties in popular holiday spots is placing significant pressure on the availability and affordability of homes for people who live and work in these places year round and, in the case of the proliferation of short term lets, is often impacting on the amenity of neighbouring residents.
This is not, however, a new issue. Rather, the rise in short term lets in particular has been the focus of much debate in planning circles over recent years, culminating in provisions to regulate these coming into force on 1 April 2021 through the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 and the Town and Country Planning (Short-term Let Control Areas) (Scotland) Regulations 2021/154.
But will the new Regulations really help the planning system to ensure that our towns, villages and rural communities are vibrant and sustainable places for people to live in, as well as to holiday in?
Even before these Regulations came into effect, planning permission was required for the use of a property as a short term holiday let if a material change of use was considered to have taken place. This notwithstanding, a survey carried out in 2020 found that, of 477 properties in Edinburgh identified as operating as short term holiday lets on a commercial basis (and therefore likely to require planning permission), only one actually had planning permission. The high profile of the impact of the rise in short term lets does though seem to have galvanised planning authorities in places like Edinburgh to use their existing powers, with the City of Edinburgh Council’s planning portal showing a number of enforcement cases against alleged unauthorised changes of use to short term lets currently pending consideration.
Of course, just because a use requires planning permission to be lawful, doesn’t mean that planning permission won’t be granted. For example, in April this year, DPEA granted planning permission for the change of use of a flat in a listed tenement building close to Edinburgh Castle to a short term holiday let on the basis that, on the circumstances of that case, it would not have a materially detrimental effect on permanent residents. That decision does not though take into account the wider impacts that the proliferation of short term holiday lets can have, and indeed it would not have been appropriate for it to do so.
The new Regulations now seek to make it easier to address issues associated with the over provision of short term holiday lets in particular areas by allowing Councils to designate short-term let control areas within which planning permission will automatically be required for a house or flat to be used as a short-term let. The 2019 Act is though silent on what happens outside those designated areas such that, while there may be an assumption that planning permission is not required outside of these, the possibility that it may be is not excluded. As such, it will still be necessary to consider whether a material change of use is deemed to have taken place in such circumstances. That being the case, we have long wondered whether the new provisions are really necessary, or whether any issues with the over provision of short term holiday lets would be better addressed through effective enforcement of the law as it is, rather than introducing another legislative burden onto already stretched planning authorities.
The terminology of the legislation is also interesting, with there being more on what wouldn’t count as a short term let than what would, with the only specific detail being that a short term let would be 31 days or less in a dwellinghouse that is not the sole or main residence of a person. What constitutes a dwellinghouse is also not defined, but is presumed to include flats, notwithstanding the fact that the general permitted development order expressly defines dwellinghouses as not doing so.
Ultimately, while the Regulations will no doubt be welcomed by many who have raised concerns about the impact that the use of properties for short term lets is having on many popular tourist areas, it remains to be seen how many short-term let control areas are designated in practice and how effective they are.
Meantime, we can all hopefully find a way to enjoy our summer holidays without worrying about the planning status of our accommodation (surely we’re not the only ones to worry about such things, right?!), with all we need now being for the sun to shine!
And whether holiday accommodation related or otherwise, to find out about how aurora planning can assist you in any aspect of the planning process, please visit www.auroraplanning.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org. And to receive future blogs and updates by email, please click here.
Thanks for reading!
Pippa and Maggie