Edinburgh short-term lets law exemption allowed for Fringe

It is understood the council has established a fast-track team to process requests for temporary exemptions ahead of the Fringe.

The move comes after Scottish Housing Minister Paul McLennan said council chiefs could “disapply” license stipulations following a meeting with City of Edinburgh Council leader Cammy Day and members of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Society.

This followed concerns over pressures on accommodation raised by the Scottish Tourism Alliance and the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers after the introduction of short-term lets legislation in Scotland.

READ MORE: Scottish holiday homes law ‘botched’ compared to England’s

The extent of the strain was highlighted by former television presenter Gail Porter who said she was being “priced out” of attending her Edinburgh show.

Council papers show that talks were held over “the effect of the short-term lets licensing and planning regimes upon the ability to accommodate people performing at and attending Edinburgh festivals”, which reveal: “The combined effect of the regimes is particularly impactful in the case of houses of multiple occupation being let over the summer period.”

Papers cite “mandatory condition 13”.

“In Edinburgh, when it agreed the short term let licensing policy, (the) Regulatory Committee exercised the discretion available to the council and applied all mandatory and additional conditions, including what is known as mandatory condition 13 (MC13) to the requirement to temporary exemptions,” documents show.

READ MORE: Gail Porter ‘priced out’ of attending Edinburgh Fringe

“The effect of MC13 in Edinburgh is to require the holder of a license to either have applied for or have planning permission in place in circumstances where planning permission is required.

“The Minister confirms that the council could decide to disapply any condition.

“The Minister goes on to note that the council has discretion in exercising its planning enforcement powers and that the planning authority are not required to take any formal enforcement action should they consider that it is not in the public interest to do so.”

It added that a temporary exemption if granted lasts up to six weeks in any 12 month period.

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The Scottish Government said the Housing Minister “provided clarification about licensing and planning matters”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Short-term let licensing legislation gives licensing authorities powers to strike a balance between the needs and concerns of local communities and the wider economic and tourism benefits of short-term lets.

“The regulations approved by parliament included the powers for licensing authorities to grant temporary exemptions in recognition of the fact that large scale events can result in a significant demand for accommodation over a short period of time.

“Hosts/operators that applied for a short-term let licence before 1 October 2023 can continue to receive guests while their application is determined, if they were already using their accommodation for short-term lets prior to October 2022.”

READ MORE: Has Scotland’s crackdown on Airbnb-style short-term lets backfired?

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the ASSC, questioned whether the exemptions would work for the August festival season.

She said: “Industry repeatedly warned about the dire consequences that would follow from a draconian approach to short-term let regulation. Edinburgh is now staring down the barrel of an accommodation crisis during the festivals unless action is taken to ameliorate the situation.

“In any case, temporary exemptions offer no comfort to the many dedicated professional operators in Edinburgh who have been left in limbo with their planning applications. These legitimate businesses have been a lynchpin of the tourism sector in Edinburgh for decades – and not just during the festival period.

“The key issue is supply and temporary exemptions will just be a drop in the ocean. Only 105 secondary let licences have been approved by the council so we simply do not have the capacity.”

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