Council criticised for not having emergency short-term let debate

The capital’s attempt to regulate AirBnB-style lets was described as 'unfair and illogical'.

Edinburgh council criticised for not having emergency short-term let debate STV News

A decision to not have an emergency council debate after Edinburgh’s short-term let policy was ruled unlawful for a second time shows “astonishing complacency,” a councillor has said.

The capital’s attempt to regulate AirBnB-style lets was dealt another blow last week as Lord Braid described the council’s implementation of a control area as “unfair and illogical”.

The decision means the city’s new licensing scheme for short-term lets (STL) will need to be amended to ensure it’s in step with the original Scottish Government legislation.

Green group councillor Susan Rae brought an emergency motion to Monday’s regulatory committee following the judgement however it was not ruled urgent business.

Convener Neil Ross, Lib Dems, said as the meeting kicked off the motion was “premature” as officials were still digesting the judge’s report, published on Friday (December 1).

He told the committee matters were “in hand” and councillors would be updated on the situation”as soon as that is appropriate”.

Reacting afterwards, Cllr Rae hit back saying: “This is astonishing complacency.”

She added: “The judgement last week blows a massive hole in the council’s attempts to effectively regulate holiday lets in the capital, and it’s vital the council takes urgent steps to address this.

“Our emergency motion called for councillors to be involved in deciding how the council responds and whether the council appeals this judgement. It’s vital these decisions are taken by democratically elected and accountable councillors, not simply council officers.”

A judicial review brought by an STL owner and property manager Lord Braid found it was wrong for the council to introduce an automatic requirement for all owners of secondary lets – whole property STLs – to seek planning permission as part of their application for a licence.

Lord Braid’s ruling confirmed the control area is not retrospective, meaning it only applies to STLs set up after it was introduced last year.

In many cases secondary lets will still require planning depending on whether a ‘material’ change of use of a property has occurred. But the latest ruling could make it more difficult for the council to ensure that all who need planning permission apply for it.

Edinburgh council’s Labour planning convener James Dalgleish said in response: “Residential properties that began being used as STLs after the control area came into force on September 5 2022 still require planning permission. Those that began before that date may still need it and will be considered on a case by case basis.”

The council’s head of regulatory services Andrew Mitchell said at the meeting on Monday: “The judgement came out on Friday with colleagues in the legal services directorate still considering implications, including they’re in the period of consideration of options.

“I expect that once that’s concluded principally to the planning committee an update will come and I’m sure an appropriate update will be provided as quickly as possible to the regulatory committee.

“We need to take the time to properly consider the full implications before we’re in a position to brief members.”

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