East Lothian Council is being urged to carry out new research into the number of Air BnB and short term holiday lets across the county after claims it has ‘hugely overestimated’ the economic benefits of the industry.

North Berwick Environment and Heritage Trust has called for the independent research to be carried out before the local authority draws up its next Local Development Plan which sets out housing needs and demands for the next five years.

They say some locals are anxious to leave their homes due to the number of short term lets in their area.

The trust says the council’s current economic development approach fails to take into account the impact on local communities and fails to consider the positive economic benefits of housing local people.

It says the council is putting the benefits of a two-bedroom short term holiday property in the county at around £89,000 but the figure is wrongly based on nationwide research on all types of tourism accommodation, much of which is hotel beds.

And it says it does not take into account that hotel beds do not remove homes from communities whereas short term lets do and reduce housing stock for sale or long term residential letting. 

The trust cites a recent report for Edinburgh City Council by independent research company MKA which put the annual benefits of a two bedroom holiday let at £8,764 compared to £12,559 benefit from residential use.

In North Berwick the trust says people have contacted them raising concerns about being ‘isolated’ or anxious in their homes because they are surrounded by short let businesses with a string of guests coming and going, or second homes which can lie empty for much of the year. 

 Alison Clark from the trust said people were even reporting moving into new housing estates expecting to be surrounded by fellow families only to find their neighbours are renting out their homes or they are second homes, visited infrequently.

She said: “In some streets we are seeing 50 per cent or more dwellings which are used for this type of let and now it is moving into the  new housing estates.”

”The trust would like to see all new housing that comes forward used as principal residences, this has been done in the Lake District and Cornwall  for a number of years and could be secured in the planning process.”

It is estimated two-thirds of all second homes in East Lothian are in North Berwick Coastal ward.

Kirsty Towler from the trust said it was not against holiday lets or second homes within the town itself provided the impact on the communities are fully assessed and a policy developed.

She said: “There has to be a balance and right now there is not as the information has not been gathered or assessed.

“There appear to be concentrations of short term holiday lets and the impact on the community is not being properly considered.

“The council needs to look at the numbers and effects in detail, and then develop an approach for future planning for all local communities.

“The change from housing to short term let businesses can undermine the feeling of community and local resilience.

“It is not just a North Berwick issue, other towns in East Lothian are also seeing this impact and loss of homes from general stock.”

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “The council is currently developing a new Local Economy Strategy to run for 10 years from 2024 which will consider the area’s key economic sectors in detail.

“Holiday homes are a traditional and popular part of the area’s tourism offering and provide local economic benefit.

“Information from this review will feed into the development of the Local Development Plan (LDP2) and any other planning related decisions on short term let control areas.

“This is a developing area of regulation and as such will be monitored and kept under review. We are in the initial stage of engagement on LDP2 and will be preparing an evidence report based on the feedback received during this first round of public consultation.

“There will be opportunity for further public engagement and consultation at future steps of this important process.”