Short term lets in Edinburgh's Old Town are sparking controversy

sunny edinburgh

Edinburgh’s old town is known the world over as a party hub. Home to the Edinburgh Festival and Hogmanay celebrations, it is visited by scores of tourists every year.  But according to a new BBC documentary the party never actually stops, with short-term lets used as so-called party flats all year round. Panorama will focus on the impact that this type of letting has on individuals and communities – and it is sure to cause some heated debate!

Problems associated with short-term lets in the historic Old Town include antisocial behaviour, lack of housing for local people to live in, as well as loss of community spirit and social isolation for remaining full-time residents. The programme will also focus on research carried out by Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman which suggests that 50% of homes in the EH1 postcode will be holiday lets by 2050.

Mr Wightman told the Scotsman newspaper that ‘it will be excellent getting this subject national television coverage. This has actually been a long-running issue in rural ‘hot spots’ going back to the 60’s and 70’s. Now it’s hit urban areas – and it’s hit Edinburgh with a vengeance.

‘It used to be people would rent out their homes over the summer, and there was no problem with that.

‘But now there are festivals year-round and online letting platforms are letting out properties all the time.

‘We want the city centre of Edinburgh retained as a residential area. This is one of the reasons it got UNESCO World Heritage Centre status.

‘We believe if someone wants to start renting out a property this should be deemed as a ‘change of use’ by the council and they should have to apply to the council for permission. This could be refused or granted with conditions.

‘It would mean the council would have a policy and each application would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It also opens the way for reviewing permission, say after five years.’

Obviously this issue isn't just about noise and antisocial behaviour. It's about the creeping loss of long-term residents in the centre of Edinburgh. What do you think?