A council could use the planning system to control the number of homes being turned into Airbnb-style holiday lets in a part of the Cairngorms National Park.
The proposed plans come amid concerns that the “massive increase” in short-term lets in Badenoch and Strathspey has “severely affected” the local housing market.
Highland Council convener Bill Lobban said the surge in short-term lets in Badenoch and Strathspey had “severely affected” the local housing market. Mr Lobban, alongside other councillors, said changing a dwelling to a short-term let should require planning permission. This type of consent is currently not a requirement.
In a vote yesterday, Highland councillors unanimously backed the call for a draft proposal to set up a short-term let control area in Badenoch and Strathspey. The plan would need to be approved by the Scottish Government before going ahead.
Mr Lobban said tourism was important to the Highlands but there was an “over provision” of short-term lets in some places. He said this made it difficult for people living and working in the area to find homes. The councillor added that it was likely there were similar problems in other parts of the Highlands. He also said a shortage of housing was a factor behind businesses in the area struggling to find staff.
Under Mr Lobban’s proposal, which is backed by the area’s other councillors, a change of use of a property to a holiday let would require planning consent, with local people having a right to comment on the application.
During a debate on the plan yesterday, Badenoch and Strathspey councillor Pippa Hadley told of a note put through her home’s letterbox from someone desperately trying to find a place to buy in the area. She added: “We need change and change that is strong enough to protect our future generations and their capacity to live in the communities they’ve been raised within.”
Skye and Raasay councillor Calum MacLeod said people in his area would be watching with interest. He said “radical reforms” were needed to help people who wanted to live and work in the Highlands to find “affordable and obtainable” land and housing.
Daniel Cullen of Iomairt an Eilein, a group campaigning on issues affecting young people in Skye, said action was also needed to tackle a shortage of homes on the island. Mr Cullen said he spent two years on the homeless list after returning to the isle to live and work. He said, simply put, you cannot find a home to rent – “unless you are incredibly lucky and find some magical place nobody else has seen”.
He added that he knew of a situation where a student teacher had to stay in a caravan on a campsite until accommodation was found for them. He said: “The reason they came here was because we needed teachers.” Mr Cullen said tourism was vital to Skye, but ways also had to be found to build more homes – including social housing – for islanders and people moving to the island.