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Planning (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 (Day 2)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 19th June 2019.

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Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

I thank Andy Wightman for the huge amount of work and effort that he has put into this very important issue. We, as well as the whole city of Edinburgh, owe him thanks, because we have a city-wide problem in Edinburgh.

I make one observation, because small observations often signify much larger change. If we look around the streets of Edinburgh, we will see that key safes have started to appear on doorway after doorway of the city’s tenements. That is a sign of a much larger change: thousands of residential properties have been taken out of residential use, which has had a huge impact on the city, particularly in my constituency.

Rachael Hamilton says that we do not have data, so let me give her some data. In my constituency alone, 1,810 addresses out of a total of 35,443 are registered with Airbnb—that is 5 per cent of all dwellings in my constituency. That has had a huge impact on the city and it is why citizens in Edinburgh say that we are increasingly experiencing a Disneylandification of the city. It is changing the nature and affordability of living in Edinburgh.

We must acknowledge that the original purpose of Airbnb has changed. It is now a business that attracts investment, which has had an impact on people and the city. Of course, short-term lets have their place, but they should not be used to the extent that they have been used in Edinburgh. The reality is that average house prices in the city are cruising towards £300,000. We have to regulate the system.

Andy Wightman’s amendment 156 is proportionate and will made a difference. Quite frankly, Rachael Hamilton’s amendment 157 is deficient, because it is reactive, not proactive. It would simply be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted and would give no additional powers—no meaningful change—to local authorities to regulate planning in this critical area.

I urge members to vote for Andy Wightman’s amendment 156, which is critical to ensuring that buildings cannot undergo a disproportionate change of use and that houses are not taken out of residential use into business use. This city needs that change, and I urge members to vote for the amendment with that in mind, for the sake of Edinburgh. I say particularly to members who represent Edinburgh areas that amendment 156 is required.