Short-term Lets: Guidance for Businesses consultation – Cockburn comments

POSTED ON December 14, 2022 BY Terry Levinthal

The draft guidance makes clear that any future planning applications will be required to demonstrate compliance with the development plan along with the approved updated guidance and other relevant material considerations.

On 22 August 2022, the City of Edinburgh Council’s Planning Committee agreed to consult on the enhancement of its Planning Guidance for Businesses 2021 in relation to short-term commercial visitor accommodation.  This follows the recent decision to designate the city as a Short-Term Let Control Area.

The consultation runs to 22 December 2022 and can be found on the Council’s Consultation Hub.

In the report to the planning committee, the Chief Planning Officer noted, “having regard to the existing policy, the experience of assessing applications and the investigation of enforcement cases relating to STL use, and having regard to a significant number of appeal decisions, the guidance requires to be updated to provide further guidance on each of the existing criteria to set out how the Planning service will assess and determine STL applications.”

The existing Planning Guidance for Businesses 2021 sets out the following guidance in relation to short-term commercial visitor accommodation. It states, “The change of use from a residential property to short-term commercial visitor accommodation may require planning permission. In deciding whether this is the case, regard will be had to:

  • The character of the new use and of the wider area;
  • The size of the property;
  • The pattern of activity associated with the use including numbers of occupants, the period of use, issues of noise, disturbance and parking demand; and
  • The nature and character of any services provided.”

In general, planning applications are assessed against whether they accord with the local development plan (LDP).  Housing Policy 7: Inappropriate Uses in a Residential Area is a key policy consideration and forms the basis for most STL decisions.

In enhancing guidance to local businesses and providing greater clarity in the approach to be taken in considering planning application, the Council has decided to consult on the proposed alterations.  It is not proposing to change the guidance per se, but to add greater clarity to issues it will consider in assessing applications.

A significant disruptive element of STLs in the city comes stems from the loss of mainstream housing to tourist/transient accommodation.  As such, it would be useful if the guidance made clear that the general change of use from residential to commercial STL is a policy constraint that goes beyond the useful position of HOU7 – incompatible uses in residential areas.

However, there are a number of instances (eg 129 High Street or 12-16 Hill Street) where the change of use comes from a different commercial use.  In the Hill Street example, former Georgian homes had long been used for office purposes.  Recent conversion to residential did not specify the use as STL.  However, the new flats never entered into mainstream housing meaning no loss of residential units to STL operations.  A similar issue occurred with 129 High Street where all the new flats were used as STL from day one.

Therefore, it would be helpful for the guidance to make clear there is a distinction to be made to between the loss of residential properties used as homes and those that have not entered into the housing market.  This would suggest a firmer approach to planning applications up front, with conditions attached making it clear that use as STL is not covered under the general residential land-use but required a different consent. Although that might seem obvious, it is not always the case that applicants understand it.

The draft guidance makes clear that any future planning applications will be required to demonstrate compliance with the development plan along with the approved updated guidance and other relevant material considerations.

The Cockburn would also advocate that the guidance make clear that there is a separate regulation/licensing system for short-term lets which follows a different process.  As we understand it, a valid planning consent (or proof of application) will be required to get a license.  However, planning consent does not guarantee that a license will be given.

For the Cockburn’s specific  views on  the enhanced guidelines see here:

Short-term Let Guidance for Business Consultation December 2022 (Cockburn’s formal response) 141222

Submitted 14 December 2022

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