RESEARCH conducted by North Berwick Environment and Heritage Trust (NBEHT) has laid bare the impact of holiday accommodation and short-term lets on the town.

Details from the study showed that some streets, such as Victoria Road, had virtually no permanent residents, while others had permanent residents as a minority.

The report details that, at the very minimum, 35 per cent of the housing stock in the centre of North Berwick is designated as holiday let accommodation.

This figure was ascertained based on the advertising of properties on four major renting platforms and therefore could be far higher, as it did not incorporate other renting platforms, privately arranged rentals or second homes.

The report stated that if these other rental sources were included, “the total would be much higher: probably up to 50 per cent of properties in the town centre are not available for permanent residency”.

NBEHT made clear this would represent “hundreds of potential affordable homes” for both buyers and long-term renters, and the issue contributed significantly to the town’s “critical housing situation”.

'Hardly any permanent residents'

The group also stressed the implications this had for locals in their search for accommodation, as well as the recruitment and retention of key workers.

The report concluded by stating: “Our research shows that the economic, social, demographic and environmental impacts of the over-abundance of short-term holiday lets in North Berwick are deep and wide-ranging, with serious consequences both for this community and for East Lothian Council.”

Olwyn Owen, chair of NBEHT, shared her concerns in the report and hoped that East Lothian Council officials would seriously consider the findings.

She said: “We believe that our report provides an accurate and up-to-date picture of the significant impacts now affecting the North Berwick community as a result of the proliferation of short-term holiday lets (and second homes).

“In some streets, such as Victoria Road, there are hardly any permanent residents now, and in others, such as Balfour Street, permanent residents are probably in the minority.

“This raises a multitude of issues – from the lack of affordable housing for local people, either to buy or for long-term rent, to problems caused to residents by a procession of short-term neighbours, to residents feeling isolated and unsafe, with few or no permanent neighbours and short-term strangers occupying adjacent properties.

“These same problems are already well-known in other beautiful places, such as Wales, Cornwall and the Lake District; but now they are badly affecting communities in lovely seaside towns such as Whitby and North Berwick."

'Really surprised'

She and members of NBEHT met with council officials to discuss the findings last week, visiting the worst affected areas.

She added: “I think the council officers were really surprised, both at the extent of the problem and its ramifications for the local community.

“It was evident they had come to listen and to see the issues for themselves.

“We hope our report and this meeting will ensure that the council introduces measures to control the number of short-term holiday lets in the town.”

A council spokesperson said: “In spring 2022, we consulted on the prospect of short-term let control areas in East Lothian.

“Over the coming months, we will review the evidence from the consultation, as well as an externally commissioned report on the private rented sector as a whole in East Lothian. The NBEHT report will also be taken into consideration.

“Since receiving the report, we have been pleased to meet with the trust and local councillors to hear their concerns.”

Paul McLennan, MSP for East Lothian, said: “I would encourage East Lothian Council to report what they found.

“I support some sort of short-term let control if the trust’s findings can be backed up.”

He also added that the decision to implement short-term let controls must be discussed by councillors, with the decision being made by the collaboration of all 22 members across all parties.