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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 Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

I think that the Conservatives have been confused about this all the way along. The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Scotland) Order 1997 cites 11 use classes of property, including businesses, residential institutions, assembly and leisure premises and so on. Short-term lets are a sui generis use class—they exist outwith those 11 classes. That means that, prima facie, they constitute a change of use, and only planning authorities can make a determination about whether that change of use is material, which would mean that, in all instances, a planning application is required.

One of the problems that we have in this city—I know that it is a problem in Portree, too—is that people are operating and changing use illegally. That is why there are so many enforcement actions. That is why Glasgow is doing what it is doing—and it is doing it effectively, because it has good plans and policies. All that I am arguing for, as Kezia Dugdale said, is a modest reform to remove the difficult-to-apply materiality test.

I will wind up. The short-term let industry has run a sustained campaign of misinformation and downright lies about the impact of amendment 156. It has frightened folk in this city and across Scotland who are just letting out a room in their homes into believing that I was intent on shutting down their enterprises. I know that, because they wrote to me with that concern. I was pleased to correct the record and say that amendment 156 would have nothing to do with them.

It is deeply disappointing that I have been unable to secure improvements in the planning system for those who are affected by the blight of short-term lets. SNP and Tory MSPs might be pleased with themselves this week, but I will continue to fight to defend the residents of Scotland in every way that I can.