Short term commercial holiday accommodation

The success of temporary short-term property letting companies such as Airbnb, Onefinestay and Homeaway shows no sign of abating. Airbnb UK had a turnover of over £14m in 2018 and the company claims that it boosted the UK economy by £4.2bn. But with success comes a number of planning issues.

The occasional letting of a property or room for short-term occupancy is not likely to constitute a change of use of the ‘planning unit’ as such – it would remain a family home, after all, under Use Class C3. However, in England, the continuous letting of a property on a short-term basis is increasingly being judged as constituting a material change of use, for which planning permission may be required.

Local authorities are concerned that the increase in Airbnb-type use (particularly in popular city centres or tourist honeypots like National Parks) can have the following effects:

  • A reduction in housing supply locally;
  • Increases in rental levels for all;
  • Loss of community cohesion in some areas; and
  • Potential for anti-social behaviour from guests, such as single-sex group bookings or hen or stag parties.

Within London, whilst such short-terms lets are extremely popular, there is at least some clarity on planning matters. Under provisions in the Deregulation Act 2015, residential premises in the capital can be used as ‘temporary sleeping accommodation’ for up to 90 nights in any calendar year without triggering a change of use. The impact can be significant. Figures from independent website Inside Airbnb showed availability of more than 20,000 ‘entire’ homes in London for at least one night.

In Wales, the Welsh Government has agreed the planning element of measures to tackle the issue of second homes and short-term lets in the country with the introduction of three new use classes.

These will give local planning authorities the ability, where they have evidence, to make local amendments to the planning system through an article 4 direction, allowing them to consider whether planning permission is required to change from one use class to another and to control the number of additional second homes and short-term lets in an area.

These changes to planning legislation were the subject of consultation over the past 12 months. The use classes order is being amended to create new use classes for ‘dwellinghouses, used as sole or main residences’ (class C3), ‘dwellinghouses, used otherwise than as sole or main residences’ (class C5) and ‘short-term lets’ (class C6).

In addition, the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) is being amended to allow permitted changes between the new use classes, C3, C5 and C6. These permitted development rights can be dis-applied within a specific area by an article 4 direction made by a local planning authority on the basis of robust local evidence.

In England, outside the capital, matters are a little less straightforward. It is a matter of ‘fact and degree’ as to whether a change of use from a Class C3 (dwellinghouse) to a sui generis use (short-term holiday let) has occurred. The local planning authority will need to consider facts such as the number of people occupying the property, the number of separate lets over a given period and any disturbance to the residential character and amenity before deciding whether permission will be required. If an application is made, it will be considered against the policies of the relevant Development Plan, taking any other material facts into account.

Following recent successes, LRJ Planning can help in assessing whether your existing or proposed holiday let would need planning permission and, if so, which factors would be important in gaining consent. This is an emerging area of planning law with appeal decisions continuing to inform the argument.