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At our Exeter office, we have noticed an increase in enquiries relating to short-term holiday lets over the past few years. This is not surprising given that the beautiful historic city where we are located, and the stunning coastal areas of Devon that surround us, attract huge amounts of visitors each year. The growth of digital platforms such as Airbnb over the past 10 - 15 years have enabled homeowners the flexibility of letting out their homes on a short-term basis and provided more choice for visitors travelling for leisure, business or for specific sporting or cultural events. However, this shift towards the short-term letting of residential properties has impacted communities in tourist hotspots such as coastal areas, National Parks and cities. Concerns have been raised about the impacts on house prices, the supply of properties to buy and for longer term rentals for local people and the viability of shops and local services as properties are left empty over the winter.

This article explores the current planning situation with respect to short-term lets and new changes that have been put forward by the Government as part of two consultations.

Is planning permission required to let out a residential property for short-term lets?

In England, it is only in London that Planning Permission is required for the use of an existing dwelling as short-term holiday accommodation, if it is let for more than 90 nights in a calendar year. Outside London, there is no restriction on the number of nights a residential premises can be let on a short-term basis. However, if it is considered that a material change of use has occurred to the property, then Planning Permission is required.

Whether a material change of use has occurred is a matter of fact and degree that will need to be determined in each separate case. Currently a self-contained dwelling falls under Class C3 of the Use Classes Order, which permits the use of a dwellinghouse by a single person or single household whether or not it is used as a main residence. Holiday lets that accommodate single people or family groups are therefore likely to remain within a C3 use and, as such, it is less likely that a material change of use will have occurred. However, the use of larger premises, which could accommodate multiple family groups or large groups of people, may be considered to fall outside a C3 use. This was the case with a 2012 Court of Appeal Judgement (Moore v. SSCLG [2012] EWCA Civ 1202), where the use of a large eight bedroom property, which could accommodate up to 20 guests, as short-term holiday accommodation was considered a material change of use.


Government consultations

The Government has published two consultations regarding short-term lets, which are running concurrently with each other. The first, published by The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), sets out the introduction of a new Use Class for short-term lets (Use Class C5) and new permitted development right allowing the change of use from a residential property (Use Class C3) to a short-term let. The second consultation was published by The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which introduces a registration scheme for short-term lets in England.


DLUHC consultation

New use class C5 and new permitted development right

The DLUHC proposes to introduce a new Use Class C5 for Short Term Lets, with the following definition:

"Use of a dwellinghouse that is not a sole or main residence for temporary sleeping accommodation for the purpose of holiday, leisure, recreation, business or other travel."

At the same time, the consultation proposes a new permitted development right, which would allow the change of use from a dwellinghouse (Use Class C3) to a short­term let (Use Class C5) (the first permitted development right) and the change of use from a short-term let (Use Class C5) to a dwellinghouse (Use Class C3) (the second permitted development right) without planning permission.

These permitted development rights would not be subject to any limitations or conditions and they would apply to listed buildings and in National Parks and in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. However, the consultation proposes that the local planning authority should be notified when either of the permitted development rights are used.

Where there is evidence demonstrating the adverse impact of short-term lets on local communities, the first permitted development right can be removed through an Article 4 direction.

Short-term lets added to sui generis uses and new permitted development right

The consultation proposes an alternative where short-term lets would be added to the list of uses under article 3 of the Use Classes Order (known as sui generis uses) and a permitted development right introduced to allow dwellinghouses (Use Class C3) to be used for short-term lets.

Increased flexibility for use class C3 to be used for short-term lets for a certain number of nights

To allow flexibility for homeowners, the consultation proposes a threshold to the number of nights a dwellinghouse is let (per year) before it is considered a material change of use to Use Class C5. 30, 60 or 90 nights in a calendar year are considered.

This would either be introduced through a permitted development right, which could be removed through an Article 4 direction, or through an amendment to the C3 Use Class, which could not be removed if there was a local issue.


DCMS Consultation

New registration scheme for short-term lets

As the majority of short-term lets are currently unregulated, there is a lack of data available which creates challenges for local planning and service delivery. In response to this, the Government proposes to introduce a registration scheme for short-term lets. Three possible approaches are put forward:

  • An opt-in scheme for local authorities, with the framework set nationally.
    Local authorities would decide whether or not to participate in the scheme based on the needs and challenges of their area.
  • An opt-in scheme for local authorities with the framework set nationally, and a review point to determine whether to expand the scheme to mandatory.
    As above, but with the flexibility to expand the scheme to cover all of England if there is a case to do so following an evaluation.
  • A mandatory national scheme, administered by one of: the English Tourist Board (VisitEngland), local authorities or another competent authority.
    This will provide a level playing field across England, helping to provide local planning authorities with information about which premises are being let out in their area and to support the development of policy to address housing and community impacts


Through introducing the registration scheme, the Government intends to avoid placing a disproportionate burden on hosts or providers of short-term lets. As such, the consultation also asks how frequently a short-term let should be required to renew their registration, whether it should be self-certified or whether light touch checks should be carried out and the cost of registration.

The DLUHC and DCMS consultations end on the 7th June.

If you have any questions regarding the above or general questions on short-term lets, please contact Elizabeth Bricknell or any member of the Planning Team at Avalon Planning & Heritage.