Andy Wightman’s planning amendments and the PRT is putting the Edinburgh Festival under threat!

Edinburgh Festival Performers are facing an accommodation crisis due to recent changes in both national (PRT) and local regulations via Andy Wightman and Edinburgh Council.

Please be aware that no August accommodation for performers, staff & guests means any Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals, as performers will have nowhere to stay!

Scotland’s new Private Residential Tenancy

The recently introduced Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) is making it difficult for performers to find accommodation for the Festival. This year many Edinburgh properties, including fully licensed HMO’s are currently unavailable during peak Fringe dates.

This is due to the new PRT arrangement having no set end date and in turn, landlords do not know when their tenants are going to leave so they are unable to advertise their properties as available for bookings during July and August this year.

Tenants can give a minimum of 28 days notice to quit but most performers book accommodation early in the year & can not wait until summer – they need to plan and budget for their shows, once they know that they have their accommodation and venues booked. Both of these are usually done early on in the year so they can know how much money is left to spend on all the other aspects of their show.

Richard Lambert, CEO at the National Landlords Association (NLA) highlighted this:

“The Scottish Private Residential Tenancy system removes the flexibility of the sector to meet the varied needs of an ever-changing population of renters, in particular students and those who only seek short term tenancies, such as during the Edinburgh Festival.

“Because student landlords now have to provide indefinite tenancies, they won’t be able to advertise their properties for the Festival, as they won’t know for certain if they will be free and available by the end of July. If this sets a trend, and artists struggle to find short-term accommodation, the 2018 Edinburgh Festival could be the last to offer such a variety of talent”

Previously Scotland had a Short Assured Tenancy and often landlords provided a 10 month long term lease to students who knew that they would vacate in the summer (saving themselves a couple of months’ rent on the standard annual lease) and the landlord could then rent their flat out in July and August to the Festival’s visitors.

This year however, due to the new arrangement with no fixed end date, much of the student population have either not stated when they are moving out or are leaving even earlier in May after just 9 months. As landlords don’t want to leave their flats vacant until July or August, many are arranging new tenancies from May having decided to not rent their property during the Festival as it would entail operating at a loss overall.

Letting agencies that do a mix of short and long lets are not able to advertise any of their properties for definitive entry dates at the moment and may not be able to do so at all. Simply put, PRT arrangements and short-term lets do not work together.

In London, a 90 day cap on short term lets has been introduced and this is possible in England because they still have an end date to a tenancy and therefore landlords can facilitate short lets in the Summer.

AirBnB proposes 90-day curb on Edinburgh lets – except during Festival – and in our opinion this would be better:

If short-term lets are to be capped then we would support Airbnb’s proposal. We would prefer that they were not capped at all however if they have to be, then Airbnb’s proposal is better than than Mr Wightman’s proposal and better than a straight 90 day maximum.

We believe a longer cap would be better than 90 days as it would allow people with second homes to provide accommodation to guests during busy times like Hogmanay, rugby weekends, Edinburgh International Film Festival, Edinburgh Marathon Festival, Royal Highland Show and also to accommodate the cast and crew of theatre productions that are on all year round.

Andy Wightman (Lothian’s MSP, Green Party) has proposed the following amendment to the planning bill, which locally stands to make matters even worse for those involved in the Edinburgh Festivals – including upwards of 30 small businesses and numerous individuals working in short term lets in Edinburgh and the property owners that support themselves and families from the income short term lets bring:

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers have summarised this below:

November 23, 2018: ASSC Statement on Planning (Scotland) Bill Amendment

“Scottish Green MSP, Andy Wightman, has proposed an amendment to the Planning (Scotland) Bill which would require people to get planning permission to let out their home as a short-term let.

“The change he makes to the bill is that ‘the use of a dwelling house for the purpose of providing short-term holiday lets involves a material change in the use of the building’. The proposal would not stand in the way of people letting out a spare room or letting out their main or primary residence on a residential lease but would apply when they sought to operate an entire property as a short-term let.”

This amendment could potentially close down almost all the self catering flats in Edinburgh unless they are able to obtain planning permission – which Edinburgh Council have already advised is unlikely if the properties are in a shared stair, which accounts for almost 95% of Edinburgh’s central tenement properties.

Edinburgh Council have publicly stated:

“Short term letting is generally not suitable for tenement properties”

 Therefore it can be assumed that short-term lets in shared stairwells will not receive planning permission.

You may think that performers will be able to stay in private homes as this is allowed in the proposed amendment however this accounts for a tiny fraction of the places that performers can actually stay – few Edinburgh residents are able to just pack up and leave for the month of August as the vast majority are in full-time employment or have family to attend to.

Student residencies can accommodate some performers however there is not enough, for 2019 already most are booked up and performers are unable to book for their full dates of up to a whole month. Also they typically have ¾-sized beds and performers don’t want to share them but if they have a room each it becomes too expensive.

Some individual performers may want to stay in rooms which is also permitted by the planning bill however most of them don’t, they are often companies and want to stay together in the same property so they can rehearse, have meetings etc.

They may be able to stay in main door flats that have been granted planning permission however this is unlikely as these will probably be marketed to tourists and more expensive as they will be the last 5% self catering properties left in Edinburgh so will most likely be in high demand.

Hotels and guests houses will be too expensive so in effect the Edinburgh Fringe performers will have virtually nowhere to stay in Edinburgh at all!

We would urge politicians to carefully consider the points outlined here when considering passing Andy Wightman’s proposed planning bill especially given that the Edinburgh Festival is reported to be worth 200 million to both Edinburgh and Scotland’s economy:

We would also like to highlight that AirBnB has been used as a marketing channel but short term lets are not just “Airbnb’s”     In fact, most of the 30 – 40 Edinburgh companies that are involved in short term lets and employ people in Edinburgh were around before AirBnB and simply use AirBnB as a marketing channel. Scottish companies and jobs are at serious risk.

The potential job losses and loss of income from the Edinburgh Festival will be a serious disaster for Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole.

More about the benefits of short-term rental in Scotland as a whole can be read here: