19th April 2023
New and existing short-term lets across England could soon be subject to changes in permitted development, following proposals to introduce a new dedicated use class for the property type.
Currently short-term lets can be classed under residential (C3), meaning there is no material change of use required if they are otherwise used as homes (subject to regional restrictions on the amount of days a year), despite their fragmented use throughout the year and their use for business purposes. But a new consultation launched by the government would seek to create a specific use class (C5) and associated permitted development rights to better monitor their numbers and, where necessary, curb uncontrolled growth in their numbers.
The drastic expansion of the short-term lettings market in recent years has had the most tangible economic impact in holiday hot-spots such as Cornwall which saw an increase of 661% in the five years to September 2021, according to statistics from the charity CPRE highlighted in government briefings. The same report noted an estimate that 148,000 properties in England were being used for short term lettings in September 2021 via online platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com.
Legal requirements around short term lets are already in place across Wales and in certain areas across England, including in London where planning permission is required for any property used for short term lettings for a total of more than 90 nights in a calendar year.
If introduced, the measures would impact all local authority areas in England, with the consultation expected to help inform the decision on whether the annual limit would be 30, 60 or 90 days.
These changes being put forward by the government are, in part, a response to concerns raised by communities across the country of a ‘hollowing out’ effect, caused by the rise in popularity of short-let booking platforms where local infrastructure such as schools and shops are negatively impacted by properties being left dormant out of season.
In a recent report, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has recently cited that “short-term lets had negatively impacted the social dynamics and economic trajectory of local communities” in the eyes of residents with a drastic reduction in available housing stock as they are priced out of the market.
Under the proposals, in areas where the volume of short-term lets is an evidencable issue, local authorities will still be able to exercise powers to remove the permitted development right through an Article 4 direction, but where no local issue exists, the plans would seek to minimise planning requirements by proposing the rights would not be subject to any limitations or conditions. The government are also set to empower planning authorities with the creation of a short-term lettings register through the government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Currently also in a consultation phase, the list would give council a greater ability to keep track of and manage numbers in their area similar to the registers for Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO).
Rebecca Stanton from the Thrings Planning and Environment Team said: “With the short-term lettings industry having expanded so dramatically in recent years, it was to be expected that the government would look to intervene in order to provide more controls and protect communities which find which find much of their housing stock empty for large periods of time, notably over winter months.
“On one hand, the proposed permitted development rights might appear to open up an opportunity for changes of use without a full planning application. On the other, they could restrict existing Airbnb-style lettings, and some local authorities will also have the ability to undermine the controls through the introduction of Article 4 directions later down the line. Property owners should seek sound legal advice on next steps as these policies take shape.”
The Thrings Planning and Environment team has extensive experience in navigating complex local and national planning policy legislation and has successfully supported commercial and residential applications through the approval and appeal processes. To find out more and for advice on your development proposals, including on usage classes, please do get in touch.