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Highland Council unfazed by Edinburgh short term lets 'unlawful' ruling

By Gavin Musgrove

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Edinburgh is leading the way on control areas for STLs followed closely by Highland Council for Badenoch and Strathspey.
Edinburgh is leading the way on control areas for STLs followed closely by Highland Council for Badenoch and Strathspey.

Highland Council has said that a legal ruling making part of a proposed short-term let control area for Edinburgh unlawful does not have any impact on plans for a similar zone in the strath.

Large parts of the policy appear to be in accord but not the central plank of the case brought to the Court of Session last month by four objectors after Crowdfunding had raised £300,000 to challenge the restrictions.

Lord Braid ruled against the proposed ban on allowing entire flats within tenement blocks to be used as holiday lets unless their owners could demonstrate why they should be exempt.

There are no tenements in Badenoch and Strathspey which is the only other part of Scotland at this time seeking to bring in restrictions on short term lets in a bid to tackle the shortage of affordable homes.

The new STL control area which will cover the entire strath will formally be established from this Sunday (June 18).

A spokesperson for Highland Council said: “We note the Court of Session judgment of 8 June 2023 in respect of the City of Edinburgh Council’s short-term let licensing policy.

"This judgment relates specifically to the City of Edinburgh Council’s policy on short-term lets and it does not have a direct impact on the Highland Council’s own policy or processes.”

Badenoch and Strathspey Highland councillor Bill Lobban has been one of the driving forces behind the control area for the strath due to come into force next week.

He said: "The decision is obviously being looked at with interest by councils all across Scotland but bear in mind that this judgment was about licencing and not the STL control area which is a planning matter."

The plan to regulate Airbnb-style lets in Edinburgh is due to come into force in less than four months' time

The legal action at Scotland's highest civil court was brought by four petitioners – Ralph Averbuch, Glenn Ford, Louise Brook and Craig Douglas.

More than 1,000 people donated more than £300,000 to the largest Crowdfunder in Scottish legal history,

Fiona Campbell, CEO of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers, commented: “We are pleased this decision from the Court of Session confirms that City of Edinburgh Council’s short-term let licensing policy was unlawful in respect of the rebuttal presumption and contravenes Provision of Services Regulations.

"The fact this was the biggest Crowdfunder in Scottish legal history demonstrates the strength of feeling that the council’s licensing plans were an existential threat to the livelihoods of operators.

"We pay tribute to the determination and courage of the four petitioners, and are extremely thankful to all those who donated and the superb legal team.

Related articles:

Short term lets control area to come into force this summer in Badenoch and Strathspey

A quick guide to new requirements for short term lets operators in strath

"This was a team effort and they can be incredibly proud of what they achieved.

"The impact of this will not be confined to the capital as the decision has ramifications for licensing schemes across Scotland.

"The Scottish Government need to go back to the drawing board on short-term let regulation and engage constructively with industry to provide a regulatory framework that works for all stakeholders."

The operators and landlords opposed to the scheme took the city council to court last month for a judicial review which lasted two days.

Highland Council said last month when final approval was given to the curbs that its STL license officers would be hosting information sessions to inform existing and perspective operators of the new requirements.

Lord Braid's full judgment can be read here

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