Planning permission for short term lets

Is planning permission needed for a short term let?

Planning permission is required for all ‘development’.  The meaning of ‘development’ is set out in Section 26 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (as amended). The definition of development includes a material change of use of land or buildings, even if there are no physical alterations to the land or building.

It is important to note that if a premises meets the definition of a Short Term Let under the Licensing Act and requires a Licence, it does not automatically require planning permission for the use as a short term let. It is for the Planning Authority to decide if the use of the premises as a short term let is/was a ‘material’ change of use (see below). In a Control Area the use of a dwellinghouse (including flats) as short term let (secondary letting) will always be material and therefore require planning permission.

Although outside of a Control Area, the planning legislation in relation to Short Term Lets has not changed, The Highland Council considers the introduction of a formal definition of “Short Term Let” within the Licensing Act has indirectly affected the existing situation, as has the development, over time, of case law on short term lets.  

The introduction of the Licensing scheme will require Short Term Let operators to interact with the Planning Authority to establish if they have the necessary planning permissions in place when applying for a Short Term Let Licence. This may result in operators being advised they require planning permission for an existing premises when the question had not previously been asked and the requirement not previously identified. Remedies to this situation are discussed later.

It is the operator’s responsibility to ensure they have the appropriate planning permission in place, and the determination as to whether planning permission is required lies with the Planning Authority.

If a Short Term Let Control Area is designated, not having the requisite planning permission may therefore affect the ability to obtain, or retain, a Short Term Let Licence.Operators should also be aware that in a Short Term Let Control Area, it will be a mandatory condition on a Short Term Let Licence that the necessary planning permission is in place (where the premises is to be used for secondary letting and is a dwellinghouse).

The following information is only a guide and any existing or prospective short term let operators are advised to contact the Planning Authority to seek confirmation on the requirement for planning permission.

Change of use of existing buildings or structures

Deciding if planning permission is required to change an existing property into a short term let can be complex, particularly in relation to existing residential properties.

Where the existing property is not residential accommodation or existing tourist accommodation, it is likely that planning permission will be required to change its use to a short term let.

Where the existing property is residential accommodation or existing tourist accommodation, planning permission may not be required to use it as a short term let.

The Planning Authority will consider, on a case-by-case basis, whether proposals represent a material change of use and therefore require planning permission. Key considerations will be the likely impacts on immediate neighbours, the wider local amenity and infrastructure of the proposed use in the proposed location.

Examples of material considerations on the subject of Short Term Lets include:

  • The character of the property, including the number of bedrooms
  • Frequency of arrivals and departures
  • Number of people staying
  • Their likelihood to be a single household
  • Frequency and intensity of noisy or otherwise unsocial activities
  • Impact on public services such as on-street parking and waste collection
  • Use of communal areas and shared access

Although to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, it is considered that a detached house in rural area, used on a single household basis as a short term let is less likely to represent a material change of use than the use of a flat in a multiple unit building in an urban area. Given the way the legislation has developed, it is not possible to generally conclude that the use of houses as short term lets will not be material and the use of flats will be material, but in general this is expected to be the prevalent outcome if single household occupancy levels are maintained.

It is this determination of a ‘material’ change of use which is changed by the introduction of a Short Term Let Control Area. In a Control Area the use of a dwellinghouse (including flats) as short term let (secondary letting) will always be material and therefore require planning permission.

New buildings or structures

Generally, any new buildings or structures to be erected, or sited, on land for the purposes of short term lets will require planning permission.

Proposals for new or converted garden buildings or structures (eg. garages, sheds, extensions, pods etc) for use as short term lets will not benefit from householder permitted development rights and will require planning permission.

Home Sharing

Class 9 (houses) of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Scotland) Order 1997 permits use as a bed and breakfast establishment or guesthouse, where at any one time not more than two bedrooms are used for that purpose, or not more than one bedroom in the case of premises having fewer than four bedrooms

This continues to apply if the property is in a Control Area.

Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

Class 7 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Scotland) Order 1997 includes use as a hotel, boarding house, guest house, or hostel where no significant element of care is provided, other than premises licensed for the sale of alcoholic liquor to persons other than residents or to persons other than persons consuming meals on the premises and other than a use within class 9 (houses – see home sharing above). If an existing premises has planning permission for Class 7 Use, it can be used for any other use within Class 7 without the need for a further planning permission. This is subject to the existing planning permission being free of any conditions restricting the use.