Edinburgh Airbnb hosts forced to get planning permission to rent out their homes for summer festivals

·3-min read
Edinburgh will become Scotland's first short-term lets control zone - Getty
Edinburgh will become Scotland's first short-term lets control zone - Getty

Nicola Sturgeon's government has been accused of undermining the success of Edinburgh's festivals by approving plans to force the city's Airbnb property owners to apply for planning permission.

The SNP administration rubber-stamped proposals submitted by the local council for the entire city to become Scotland's first short-term lets control zone.

It means property owners letting out a residential property that is not their principal home for a short period will have to apply for “change of use” permission through the planning process.

The move aims to crack down on Airbnb-style accommodation, amid concerns that too many homes are being lost to the "holiday market".

Around a third of all short-term lets in Scotland are in Edinburgh and council leaders want to introduce a city-wide cap on the numbers of homes given planning permission under the new scheme.

Timing of announcement 'ironic'

But industry groups attacked the "absolutely devastating" change and warned it would make it harder for performers and visitors at Edinburgh's summer festivals to find accommodation.

The city's population is expected to double to almost a million people this month, as tourists flock back to the Edinburgh Fringe, the International Festival and the International Book Festival for the first time since the pandemic.

Even though the change will not be implemented until next month, after 2022's festivals are over, there are fears that it will lead to a dire shortage of rooms next August.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, said: "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.”

The latest crackdown comes after SNP ministers introduced a new licensing system for the owners of short-term lets. New operators will have until Oct 1 to obtain a licence, while existing ones will have until April 1 next year.

Shona Robison, the SNP's Housing Secretary, said: "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, the city council leader, said: "We will now progress implementing the changes and the next step should be looking at whether we can apply a cap on numbers, too."

An Airbnb spokesman said: "The vast majority of hosts in Scotland are regular people who occasionally rent one home to boost their income.

"Almost four in 10 say the extra earnings help them afford the rising cost of living. We want to be a good partner to authorities and collaborate on rules that support local families and protect local communities."