The short term allows operators to leave Badenoch and Strathspey
At least a dozen independent businesses have already closed in Badenoch and Strathspey due to a sweeping new Highland Council housing policy – and that’s before it has even been introduced.
But the Cairngorms Business Partnership said that instead of these homes entering the local property market, most become second homes and will contribute far less to the strath economy.
CBP Director General Mark Tate revealed that 12 of their members have already chosen to close their restaurant businesses.
He said this was a direct result of plans for a new short-term lettings (STL) control area for the whole of Badenoch and Strathspey and separate plans, also by the local authority, for a licensing system for tourist accommodation.
Scottish ministers recently approved plans for the control area in the strath – only the second part of Scotland after Edinburgh to have such a designation – in a bid to tackle the chronic shortage of affordable housing.
The move comes on the heels of the rise of Airbnb, Booking.com and other online platforms which are increasing demand – and prices – for property in the strath.
This means that STL owners must apply to the council for a change of use permit to continue their current business operations.
Dozens of such requests have already poured into the council’s planning department in recent months.
The board is currently conducting a public consultation on the final policy for the STL’s local control area with a deadline set for next Friday (February 3).
But CBP Director General Mark Tate revealed, “Our quarterly business survey tells us that staffing shortages are the number one challenge facing businesses, with lack of affordable housing being a key driver.
“We have to be very careful that in our attempt to solve this problem we do not harm our economy.
“Twelve of CBP’s member companies have already chosen to close their restaurant businesses due to both licensing and the proposed control area.
“Very few of these houses are suitable as affordable homes and most have become second homes, which significantly reduces their economic value.
“We encourage those responding to the consultation to bear in mind the potential for economic harm if the currently proposed planning policy is introduced.”
However, Highland Council organizer and local member Bill Lobban, who lives in Aviemore, said the initiative had good local support.
He told the Strathy: ‘The vast majority of local residents who have contacted me personally fully support the position taken by the council despite the alarmism in some quarters.
“A quick glance at the weekly planning listings proves that a large number of residential type properties are applying for planning permission and a good number of them have been approved.
“The fact that local residents and incoming staff can no longer afford to live here is the only reason we have made this decision and the option of doing nothing to put our heads in the sand and hope that it will go away is not an option.”
Local Councilor Muriel Cockburn said: “Hospitality is a key industry for our local economy. It is important that the service provided is of the highest standard – part of that is having well-paid staff available to support service and affordable housing is a key factor.
“It is unfortunate that some companies are going out of business. It is important that all housing needs are met and this can only be achieved if all stakeholders work together to find local solutions so that local people can stay and work here.
“We need to look to the future for our young people and allow them to have access to a diversified sustainable economy for the region.”
Scottish ministers’ approval of STL area for Strath hailed as ‘momentous change’
Strathy asked Highland Council about the level and balance of responses and themes to date in the public consultation.
But a spokesperson said: “The consultation has been extended from six to eight weeks to allow for the Christmas holidays. It is open until February 3, then once closed responses will be considered.
“We will not comment further as long as the consultation remains open.”
• The consultation and the draft policy can be consulted on www.highland.gov.uk/stlcontrolarea
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