York Greens call for tougher controls on holiday lets in York

Henry Stevens, Zack Polanski (deputy leader of the Green Party) and Denise Craghill on the City walls.

Following concerns raised with us by local residents, York Greens have responded to two separate Government consultations on holiday lets saying the Government needs to progress both a registration or licensing scheme and changes to the planning system.

Former Guildhall ward councillor, Denise Craghill, who drafted the response along with Guildhall ward team member Henry Stevens says “It is important that the Government pursues both of these avenues and doesn’t water down these measures. A robust, properly financed and enforced registration scheme is necessary to gather full information on the growing impact of holiday lets in our neighbourhoods. It should also ensure good standards of health and safety, building management and relations with neighbours. This must be linked to changes in the planning system so that local councils can make policy to control the further spread of holiday lets, based on evidence of their impact on local housing markets.”

Henry Stevens adds ‘A certain number of holiday lets will always play a part in York’s local tourism economy. We know that there are many landlords who run carefully managed and considerate operations. However, the recent changes in both the numbers and the character of holiday lets in York is a big cause of concern. The bigger holiday lets and clusters that accommodate very large groups (hen and stag parties) have been having some very negative impacts on the character of local communities. There is also growing evidence that the additional income that landlords can achieve by switching from residential lettings to holiday lets is taking more homes out of York’s already very difficult housing market.”

Our consultation response has made the following key points:

Registration Scheme

  • There should be a national mandatory scheme which supports a ‘level playing field’ across the country and also provides the best data for local councils to monitor where holiday lets are increasing.
  • It should be administered by local councils who have the best knowledge of the local areas and (as in York) have already built up expertise in administering similar local schemes such as licensing for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). We have objected strongly to a suggestion that the scheme could be administered by a national tourism body such as Visit England. We think this would be a conflict of interest which would weaken the scheme.
  • All individual accommodation units should be registered separately so an accurate picture of all holiday lets can be built up. Where a single owner owns a number of holiday lets in a local council area they should also be required to provide a full list and to indicate where these are advertised together as suitable for large groups.
  • Information should be collected and updated annually.
  • Compliance with all the proposed regulations should be required for the property to be registered. The exact processes for enforcement should be left to local councils but should include a rolling programme of physical inspections (prioritising “worst-first” based on intelligence and experience) along with additional spot-checks. We strongly opposed a suggestion that the scheme could be based on self-certification which has been demonstrated in various similar situations not to be effective.
  • Failure to comply with regulations should incur a penalty. In keeping with good practice this should take a graduated approach (from education through to fines) but enable quick enforcement action to be taken if there is a severe impact on communities. Fines when issued should be sufficiently high not to be seen as an acceptable expense.
  • Local councils (as administrators of the scheme) should set the details of the fee structures. This fee would be likely to depend on the size or local lettable value of a unit. We strongly opposed a system with a flat fee per owner (whether big or small) or a lower fee for operators owning more than one property.
  • The platforms that profit from short-term holiday lets should make a contribution to setting up and running the scheme.
  • Local councils must of course have access to all the aggregated (ie. not personal) data collected. Residents should be able to identify where there are holiday lets in their neighbourhoods and if they are registered.

Changes to the planning system

  • We agreed that the planning system can play an important part in controlling the growth in numbers of properties being used as holiday lets.
  • There should be a change to introduce a new ‘planning use class’ for short-term lets. This will mean that all properties being changed to short-term lets from residential (or any other use class) will need planning permission. This will enable local councils to develop policy on the appropriate proportion of holiday lets in a city or parts of a city taking into account their impact on communities and on local housing supply – the new use class would mean such policies could be enforced.
  • We agreed that the planning definition of a short-term holiday let should allow for home occupiers to let out a single room in their main residence from time to time to help with housing costs.
  • We called on the Government to consider if retrospective planning permission could be required in some cases, for example for properties being changed to holiday lets within the last few years of the new use class coming into force. We pointed out that many residents are already very concerned about the numbers of existing holiday lets and that if there is no retrospective requirement there will be a temptation for many landlords to switch to holiday lets prior to the planning changes coming into force.
  • We pointed out that excluding student accommodation that is used for conferences between terms from these planning controls could create a loophole and should be considered carefully.
  • We strongly opposed the suggestion that there should be a new national ‘permitted development right’ for changing from C3 (residential) to the proposed new C5 class. Such a measure would mean that very little would change for some time. Local councils like York would have to individually go through the process of introducing an Article 4 Directive on the basis of compiling evidence to show that York or parts of York require exemption from the permitted development rights. This could take a year or longer and in the meantime the number of holiday lets would continue to increase.
  • We argued that if the Government does introduce permitted development rights then at least there should be exceptions that mean that controls are at least as robust as can currently be implemented through ‘material change of use’ for example a change from a residential dwelling to a ‘party house’. We said that there is a danger that introducing the new use class with permitted development rights could in effect result in a watering down of current controls.
  • We opposed a suggestion that permitted development rights could be applied to holiday lets for any additional building within the curtilage.

A copy of our full planning response is available here.

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