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Fears new rules won’t stop parts of East Neuk from being blighted by short-term lets

Elie and Earlsferry is a hotspot for holiday homes.
Elie and Earlsferry is a hotspot for holiday homes.

Fears have been raised that parts of the East Neuk will continue to be blighted by short-term lets unless retrospective action can be taken through new legislation.

The Scottish Government announced this week Airbnb-style short-term lets could be subject to new licensing schemes from spring next year.

Holyrood could force people who run Airbnb-style short-term lets to get a licence

Councils will be able to designate new control areas for short-term lets and owners seeking to let properties in this way will first have to obtain planning permission.

The measures are being introduced following concerns about the impact on areas like Edinburgh which is one of the most popular places for Airbnb listings.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie is concerned the new set-up does not go far enough for communities in north east Fife which have already been swamped by people snapping up properties for use as holiday homes.

Elie and Earlsferry is one of the worst affected areas in Scotland, with only 264 out of 830 housing units said to be permanently occupied.

Mr Rennie said: “My constituents in communities such as Elie, Crail and other areas in the East Neuk need proper assurance that there is room for retrospective action.

“Many fear, quite rightly, that if this does not form part of the process, the number of short-term lets in these areas will remain far too high.

“It will not be satisfactory if the new system fails to cut the number of short term lets in areas that have seen their communities hollowed out by the holiday let growth.

“North East Fife has a thriving tourism industry, with its iconic university and beautiful scenery, however, there remains a concern about the growing number of holiday lets which means that some communities have a small number of full-time residents.

“This has threatened the viability of community facilities and services like schools and shops.

“I hope that in the coming months we will see further detail about how to ensure these communities are supported to thrive.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said retrospective action may form part the new arrangements but no firm commitment has been made.

He said: “That is part of the discussions we will have with local authorities around about how we set up this regime.

“Obviously, we want to tackle not only future difficulties but also existing difficulties as well and I imagine we will have very proactive discussions with local authorities on that point, in terms of dealing with some of the existing difficulties that there are in certain parts of this country.”

Graeme Brown, director of homeless charity Shelter Scotland, said the “unregulated growth” of short-term lets “has led to too many people being locked out of homes that could be let privately to help tackle Scotland’s housing emergency”.

Megan Bishop from Living Rent, Scotland’s tenants’ union, hailed the announcement as a “huge step forward”.

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