Highland Council agrees short-term lets limitations
Members of the Highland Council have agreed to progress a motion to use planning laws to limit the number of short-term lets in communities.
The proposal, put forward by the four Badenoch and Strathspey councillors, received overwhelming support from members of the council.
Bill Lobban, who presented the motion, urged that issues with the housing stock have reached “crisis point”.
The proposal, if approved by the Scottish Government, would give the Highland Council the right to limit the conversion of homes for short-term lets.
Councillors cited the rising number of properties for use as Airbnbs and “party houses” as a concern and barrier in allowing young people to climb onto the property ladder.
The new legislation would allow for greater scrutiny in the change of use of properties, The Press and Journal reports.
If approved, the area of Badenoch and Strathspey will become a let control area, meaning planning consent would be required for change of use. Locals would also be given the opportunity to comment on applications.
Mr Lobban said that there have been instances where “new supposedly affordable homes” are being “bought off plan to become holiday lets”.
He added that tourism is the “lifeblood” of Badenoch and Strathspey with the whole economy depending on it.
However, Mr Lobban said that there must be a balance. He said the proposal will “allow people to feed into the planning system and be part of the decision-making process for something which is having a massive impact on their community”.
Badenoch and Strathspey councillor Pippa Hadley echoed her colleague’s concerns, stating: “We need to take action now. It is no longer believed that we can build our way out of this issue.
“This is not a situation we can continue to exist within. It is not just the viability of our communities but our businesses and the future of our children depends on us to make a sensible decision now. We need change and change that is strong enough to protect our future generations and their capacity to live in the communities they have been raised in.”
Skye councillor Calum MacLeod welcomed the proposal as similar issues have been raised on Skye. While Councillor Ken Gowans added that issues were not solely limited to rural areas, with pressures also apparent in Inverness.
Ailsa Raeburn, chairwoman of Community Land Scotland, commented: “It is heartening to see Highland Council responding to the issues caused by short-term lets in the Badenoch and Strathspey area.
“Tourism is essential to many rural communities but this must be sustainable tourism and must not exacerbate the existing significant issues of lack of affordable housing, and in a limited number of cases, serious nuisance.
“The use of short-term control areas will be an important tool to ensure we can get the balance right.”
A spokesman for Iomairt an Eilein, a group formed to address housing issues on Skye, said: “This is welcome news but it has to be balanced to ensure it is not to the detriment of locals who perhaps rely on short-term lets as an income source.
“It must also not hinder those who work in say the hospitality sector who may need short-term accommodation in order to carry out their roles. While we welcome this news, we will wait to see what comes from the Scottish Government.”
Finance minister Kate Forbes said: “The legislation enables Highland Council to implement local solutions to local problems. The huge pressure on housing is well documented in Badenoch and Strathspey, and so I can understand why local councillors are progressing this decision.
“This is just one part of a whole programme to solve the housing crisis in Badenoch and Strathspey, which is directly undermining business growth.”