The newly-formed Plockton Development Trust has welcomed proposals by the Scottish Government to regulate the short-term letting market.
Formed in July to advance local development projects and tackle issues such as housing and traffic congestion, the trust last month submitted their response to the Scottish Government consultation on regulating the market, which has now closed.
Some Plockton locals are concerned with the lack of affordable housing in the village and the number of second or holiday homes.
Interim trustee Sandra Holmes told the Free Press the trust are currently seeking to recruit new members – the present membership stands at 55 – but that a “strong case” will be made to Highland Council for Plockton to become a ‘control area’, if the members are in favour of this.
Under Government proposals, a control area will require all change-of-use properties to secure planning permission if they want to become short-term lets.
The trust’s response to the consultation added: “Planning is generally required for change of use with the potential to have wider impacts.
The change of a residential property to secondary letting as a commercial venture is a significant and material change, often with very real impacts on a community. Planning permission would therefore appear appropriate in our view.
“Our concerns regarding secondary letting very much centre on the change of use of a residential dwelling to secondary letting.
“We are not concerned with secondary letting of purpose-built holiday accommodation or unconventional dwellings as these do not deplete local residential housing stock. We would assume that the planning process would take account of this.”
On the subject of unconventional dwellings, the trust urged the Government to give more clarity on how these are defined.
“For example, would a purpose-built timber holiday chalet be within or out with the scope of the legislation?” the response said.
It is right that caravans be excluded from future regulation, the trust say, as they are “frequently used as main residence accommodation in rural areas.”
The response added: “Through increased parity of regulation between short term lets and private residential tenancies, coupled with the potential to designate control areas, it is possible that property owners may consider a private residential tenancy more favourably than they have in the past.
A reduction in secondary letting and a growth in private rented tenancies – which are very rare in our community – would be a very welcome outcome.”
Where ‘home sharing’ short-term lets help supplement household income and provide additional spend in the local economy, the trust considers such lets to have a “positive impact on the wider community and would therefore be keen to ensure” that the proposals do not make ‘home sharing’ less viable or attractive for the hosts.
“We suggest that the regulation and associated fees be applied proportionately depending on the degree of commercialisation of the offering,” the trust’s response added.
“Thus a home sharing short-term let in the host’s home would be subject to lighter touch conditions and more modest fees than whole house secondary letting.”
Although the issue was discussed at last month’s meeting of Plockton Community Council, chairman David McGhie said they had not responded to the consultation.
However, the community council “broadly supported” the need for legislation, he said, so long as it was implemented with “care and consideration.”
Local Highland councillor Biz Campbell echoed Mr McGhie’s comments.
“There needs to be regulation but we have to be very careful about how we apply it,” she told the Free Press.
“There has got to be a balance so that the small operators are not penalised and the tourists have somewhere to stay.”
Ms Holmes said the first priority for the new trust is to get their website up and running and move towards holding elections for trust office bearers.
Last week, Highland Council approved the official response to the Scottish Government consultation.
A spokeswoman added: “Councillors noted that short-term lets have significant economic benefits to Highland communities, but acknowledged that in some circumstances there can be negative impacts.
“Members also noted the significant resource implications for the council and agreed that the costs of administering the scheme would be recovered in full by way of fees, as permitted by the licensing scheme.”
To join Plockton Development Trust, click here for a membership form.
Article by Michael Russell.