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Scottish Parliaments Local Government and Community Committee - Call for Views on Short Term Letting Draft Regulations

  1. Do the proposed changes strike the correct balance between protecting the long-term sustainability of local communities and promoting tourism and strong local economies?

YES. Overall, RTPI Scotland believe that the correct balance has been reached between an over - prescriptive and onerous system and a light touch, ineffective approach. The associated guidance documents will need to set out the procedures in more detail as we have concerns that the continuing uncertainty about the planning status of short term lets will continue to cause problems and disputes.

RTPI Scotland is well aware that the issue of STLs has been controversial in Scotland, and indeed in other countries. There are advantages for tourists and visitors and the overall tourist economy in terms of availability of cheap, alternative accommodation. RTPI Scotland appreciates that there are different views expressed by Councils across Scotland depending on the concentration of short term lets in specific geographical concentrations in cities or National Parks and the incidence of STLs in remoter and smaller communities, where there is a real need to support and encourage the local tourism industry.

We consider that the proposed changes are comprehensive, and well thought out, based on thorough research and wide consultation. It is especially important that the new procedures offer both uniformity across Scotland, but also retains the ability for Councils to apply local flexibility. RTPI Scotland supports the statutory registration of short term let accommodation and also supports the ability of Councils to designate local control areas.

  1. Has the Scottish Government’s defined short terms lets in a clear and correct way in the legislation?

YES. RTPI Scotland agrees that the definition as set out in legislation has struck the correct balance between being fair and precise.

  1. Will local authorities have adequate resources, powers and expertise to make a success of their new powers and duties?

Before introducing these instruments, Scottish Government previously consulted twice on proposals.  RTPI Scotland would like to reiterate concerns previously expressed in consultation responses on STL regarding resources. The new proposed provisions will place a significant burden on planning departments resulting from the gathering evidence of local characteristics and impact, the processing of more planning applications, the submission of more appeal statements, the handling of more complaints from the public and undertaking more enforcement action. Research by RTPI Scotland examining the costs of introducing the new duties of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 estimated that a planning authority designating all or part of its area as a short-term let control area could cost up to £14.8m over ten years[1]. There is a need to recognise the cumulative impact of the resource implications of introducing these new provisions, alongside other costs expected from implementing new duties of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 and taking account of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the overall financial context of diminishing resources in Councils, both in terms of staff levels and fee income streams. This increase in demand for planners comes at a time when there is a diminishing resource base with planning authorities’ budgets decreased in real terms by 40.8% and staff numbers cut by 25.7% since 2009.  Development management and development planning functions only made up 3.2% of local authority net revenue budgets in 2019.

We appreciate that fees can be charged by local authorities to cover the establishment costs and running costs involved dealing with STLs.  However it is our understanding that Scottish Government does not intend to provide any other funding which would help towards set up costs and training to ensure planning officers are aware of the processes and procedures involved. There would be economies of scale if there was a national training programme.

Local authorities can include costs for setting up the systems, staff training, processing applications, and renewals, site visits, handling complaints and other monitoring and enforcement costs. RTPI Scotland feels it is important that any additional workstreams affecting planning activities and resources need to be fully costed and included in the fee charges. This is obviously separate from planning fee charges for any required change of use. RTPI believes that any fees generated should be ‘ringfenced’ to cover the full costs of the planning authority undertaking this work.  With significant costs expected for councils to implement the proposed regulations RTPI Scotland would recommend that a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) be carried out help to assess the financial impact that the instruments may have on the public sector. RTPI Scotland would also advocate for continued monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of the provisions alongside their resource impact on local authorities.

RTPI Scotland would like to highlight the need to consider short-term let data collection and sharing as a priority action to support spatial planning strategies, policies and implementation. Consideration of data sharing needs to include both compatibility and transferability of data. RTPI Scotland supports the intention to create a shared data platform for planning and place data as one of the key actions for the Scottish’s Governments Digital Strategy for Planning.  Such advancement of digital planning interfaces linked effectively to related datasets, in this case short-term let, could markedly aid the implementation of these new regulations and improve the planning service more broadly.


[1] RTPI Scotland (2019) Financial Implications of Implementing the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019. August. Available here:


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