Council chiefs in Fife have been urged to use new powers to stop the rapid spread of holiday homes which some claim are ruining parts of the region.
New planning legislation passed last week will give local authorities the chance to introduce ‘control’ areas where planning permission will always be required if owners want to change the use of their property to short-term lets.
Now campaigners in the East Neuk and parts of north east Fife have called on Fife Council to take full advantage of these new weapons to try and curb the number of properties lying empty in attractive areas.
Figures produced last year suggested Elie and Earlsferry was one of the worst hit areas in Fife for holiday homes, with only 264 out of 830 housing units said to be permanently occupied.
With residents there fearing schools, doctors’ surgeries and shops could be at risk unless the village attracted more families on a permanent basis, East Neuk and Landward Conservative councillor Linda Holt has called on Fife Council to consider making St Andrews and East Neuk designated ‘control’ areas as soon as possible.
“The proliferation of Air BnB and other short-term letting has become a major problem in parts of Edinburgh, which is why the Scottish Government has introduced these new powers,” she commented.
“The market for second homes and holiday letting in St Andrews and the East Neuk has had negative impacts.
“It has driven up prices, reducing housing availability for permanent residents and helping to price many locals out of the housing market altogether.
“It also undermines the health and vibrancy of communities as it leads to depopulation and a decline in local services and amenities, if they do not serve holiday-makers.
“Fife Council now has a tool which gives it a brake on the growth in holiday lets, and I will be urging the administration at Fife Council to designate both St Andrews and the East Neuk as control areas.
“Tourism is the lifeblood of the East Neuk, but it is important to balance its needs against the needs of our resident communities.
“Otherwise we risk ruining the very thing which makes the East Neuk so attractive to visitors and residents alike.”
Labour councillor and strategic convener Altany Craik hinted no action was imminent, but confirmed officers were looking at the issue.
He commented: “Given that the Planning Bill has only recently been passed we will look at all the implications for Fife and the reports will come to the relevant committees in due course.”