Huge pressure on Highland Council over introduction of short-term let licensing scheme for AirBnB-style set-ups with October deadline looming
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Highland Council has revealed that it is under incredible pressure to introduce the short-term let legislation by October, which was earlier approved by the Scottish Parliament.
In January, the Scottish Parliament approved changes which meant that all Short-term Lets will have to be licensed from October 1 in a bid to control the upsurge in AirBnB style properties.
But at the licensing committee local authority solicitor Claire McArthur delivered a clear assessment of where the local authority stands and the challenges it faces in delivering the programme in time.
The issue arose because the Scottish Government delayed the introduction of the legislation for a year due to Covid but then failed to extend the timescale to implement it – so the council has just six months to get the job done.
Not only does the council need between 30 and 40 more staff almost immediately, it also has to conduct a six-week consultation, gather the responses and issue its own policy and do this over the summer recess.
So fast do officers have to work that the public consultation has already been launched just days after the Monday’s licensing meeting where this will have to come back once a policy document is worked-up.
"Staffing is going to be a huge issue and that is something that needs to be given a lot consideration too. It's very hard to know when we're working on estimate numbers but we are anticipating 10,000 applications" – Claire McArthur
And even once that is done, it is expected there could be significant backlogs of applications could emerge as it is estimated that 10,000 properties around the Highlands will need a license.
Ms McArthur said: “Just to go through the challenges for the council and introducing this scheme. The time scales for this are very tight – the Scottish Government delayed the introduction of the legislation by a year for Covid but they didn't extend the time scales for local authorities to have to start accepting applications.
“So between March and October, it's really a six month period where we've had to get everything in place and so it really is very challenging in terms of what we have to do, especially given the local government elections, member training, and summer recess of committees.
“Also, the volume of applications, it is anticipated that's going to be about 10,000 properties that are required to be licensed within the Highland Council area. So, it's a huge undertaking and in terms of workloads and the additional pressure and IT for processing these applications, and having this in place.
“Again, given the time scales, a six-week consultation period is not ideal, and in terms of timing, it's over the busiest time for the trade but there's not a lot we can do about that. Staff resourcing – there is no capacity within the current licensing set-up to administer this licensing scheme or within environmental health services for their role.
“It is very likely that we will need a lot more staff and in terms of the structure of what's proposed, we're looking for staff from solicitor down, we've got a licensing officer position and clerical and admin positions, and these would ideally be placed across all area offices and from Wick, Goslpie, Inverness, Nairn and Fort William, Portree.
“But yes, staffing is going to be a huge issue and that is something that needs to be given a lot consideration too. It's very hard to know when we're working on estimate numbers but we are anticipating 10,000 applications.
“When initial figures were seen I was fully expecting or requiring between 30 and 40 staff.”