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Highland councillors back using planning laws to limit short-term lets as situation reaches ‘crisis point’

The motion, proposed by Badenoch and Strathspey councillors, was agreed at a full council meeting today.
The motion, proposed by Badenoch and Strathspey councillors, was agreed at a full council meeting today.

Highland councillors today backed plans to limit the number of short-term lets in communities.

The proposal, put forward by the four Badenoch and Strathspey councillors, received overwhelming support.

Bill Lobban, who presented the motion, said issues with the housing stock have reached “crisis point”.

The proposal, if approved by the Scottish Government, would give the local authority the right to limit the conversion of homes for short-term lets.

Young people facing challenges to get a foot on the property ladder

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 area of Badenoch and Strathspey will become a let control area under the proposal, meaning planning consent would be required for change of use.

Locals would also be allowed the opportunity to comment on applications.

Community would be part of the process

Mr Lobban said that there have been instances where “new supposedly affordable homes” are being “bought off plan to become holiday lets”.

He said tourism is the “lifeblood” of Badenoch and Strathspey with the whole economy dependent on it.

However, Mr Lobban believes 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”.

Councillor Bill Lobban

‘We need change to protect future generations’

Fellow 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.”

Councillor Pippa Hadley

Skye councillor Calum MacLeod welcomed the proposal as similar issues have been raised on Skye.

Councillor Ken Gowans also said issues were not solely limited to rural areas, with pressures also apparent in Inverness.

‘An important tool to ensure we can get the balance right for rural communities’

Ailsa Raeburn, chairwoman of Community Land Scotland, said: “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 for rural communities.”

Regulations must not impact livelihoods

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.

“Whilst we welcome this news, which we hope will address issues in Badenoch and Strathspey, Skye and the wider Highlands, we will wait to see what comes from the Scottish Government.”

Issues relating to housing have been highlighted in Skye

Kate Forbes: ‘I can understand why councillors are doing this’

Highland MSP 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.”

Finance secretary Kate Forbes in Holyrood

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