Edinburgh ‘party’ flats subject of new BBC documentary

Image: Sara Konradi

Edinburgh ‘party’ flats and their impact on the local community will be the subject of a BBC Panorama documentary.

Together with Andy Wightman, Scottish Green MSP, the investigative programme is exploring the difficulties caused by an increase in short-term letting in Edinburgh’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre site.

An increasing number of properties in the Old Town are being let out as holiday homes, as opposed to long-term residential rentals.

Research carried out by Wightman revealed that by 2050 approximately 50 per cent of homes in the EH1 postcode will be holiday lets.

Short-term lets can lead to issues including increased anti-social behaviour, restricted accommodation for local Edinburgh residents and a lack of community spirit.

One University of Edinburgh student, Gemma Cartney, experienced serious difficulties after the flat above her was purchased and let out on a short-term basis.

Cartney, who studies Linguistics and English Language, told The Student, “it was difficult to sleep with music blaring until three or four a.m. most weekends, and it made our home feel really unsafe.

“As an all-female flat, we did feel threatened by the large groups of men who would congregate outside or run up and down the stairwell.

“When one drunken man tried to get his way into our flat, and had to be fought off by one of my flatmates, the policeman that arrived later to deal with the problem insinuated it wasn’t the man’s fault because ‘he was drunk’.”

Cartney felt the council was particularly at fault for failing to find a solution to her problem.

“It felt like the council did not take us seriously because of our age and status as students,” she said, “as if it was expected that students should put up with constant parties and noise anyway.

“We felt that the council, who were ultimately responsible for dealing with the party flat, were insultingly unhelpful and did not recognise how badly the situation affected our mental health.”

Wightman, who authored the studies ‘Who Owns Scotland’ and ‘The Poor Had No Lawyers’, has been encouraging affected parties to come forward and speak to BBC Panorama.

Speaking to Edinburgh Evening News, Wightman has argued that, “This problem has hit Edinburgh with a vengeance. We want the city centre of Edinburgh retained as a residential area.”

Wightman has also called for greater regulation by the council, telling the Edinburgh Evening News, “We believe if someone wants to start renting out a property, this should be deemed a ‘change of use’ by the council and they should have to apply to the council for permission.

“It would mean the council would have a policy and each application would be dealt with on a case-by-case-basis. It also opens the way for reviewing permission, say after five years.”

The University of Edinburgh has made efforts to support students in this situation.

Cartney told The Student, “We were very grateful to have the Advice Place to go to, as they were as helpful as they could be.

“It’s important to let the university know about any problems like this, because they were actually more understanding and helpful than most authorities we contacted.”

Speaking to The Student, Ester Dominy, Vice President Welfare of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association said, “party flats and local disturbances around student flats are not something the Advice Place sees often, but when this does occur it can have a huge impact on the wellbeing of the students having to live in this situation.

“I would always advise students to come and see the Advice Place and to report it to the council.”

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