Anti Social Behaviour Action Plan (England and Wales) – implications for short-term lets and much more?

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1. You may have seen or heard reports of yesterday’s announcement by the PM and Home Secretary regarding plans to “crackdown” on anti-social behaviour in both England and Wales.  Today there has been a lot of mainstream and industry media comment referencing plans to tackling such behaviours in “Airbnb” or more accurately short-term letting properties. Finding the source reference, beyond the PM’s well publicised response to a question from a member of the public in yesterday’s press conference, essentially about their problems with what we would classify as a “party house”, isn’t as simple as googling a few key words. 

In case you having the same problem finding it as I did, the full plan, largely a series of proposals still to be refined and implemented overtime and subject to all the usual vagaries of agreement, consent and Westminster Parliamentary and Welsh Government  process, can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/anti-social-behaviour-action-plan/anti-social-behaviour-action-plan

The reference to short-term letting in England (the Welsh Government are ahead of England in this area) can be found at para 31 f).   The paragraph is all but lost in a much bigger chapter, paras 28 to 33 on “evicting anti-social tenants”.   It is so short I am can easily reproduce it here but you might, at some point, like to read it in the context of the full chapter? :

f) preventing short-term lets importing anti-social behaviour into communities, such as noise problems or drunken and disorderly behaviour. We will do this by setting up a new registration scheme giving local authorities the data to easily identify short-term lets in their area. If a let proves problematic, they can take action against guests and owners. We will publish a consultation on the registration scheme shortly.

If there was ever any doubt, the inclusion of the ongoing proposals for the registration of short-term letting within this much more high-profile and more mainstream policy area, makes it all but certain, that registration, in some form, will now go ahead in England (catching up with Wales). Albeit the impetus for doing so in England may well just have shifted away, in part at least, from our association’s main focus on the universal provision of safe, clean and legal visitor accommodation?   

It remains likely that the options to be offered in the long awaited DCMS, hopefully final (?) consultation, will lean towards a light touch registration scheme. From a destination management prospective, at least, the key is to ensure that the solution adopted is not so light touch that it simply serves to sanctions and give official credibility to the current chaotic and largely unregulated and unchecked provision. Joe Public, on the whole rightly assume it is already registered/licenced and thoroughly controlled and this process therefore should be all about making reality match the existing, realistic public perception.  Whatever we end up with must be easily implemented, yet robust enough to be effective in achieving a range of entirely reasonable aims, not least of which are the guarantee of safe, legal and preferably clean provision of visitor accommodation.

We now all await DCMS’s consultation/proposal document.

2. Again from the prospective of destination management there also a rash of other areas of significant direct, or tangential interests, within the proposals, including tackling anti-social littering and graffiti paras 36 b) to 43, anti-social elements of rough sleeping and associated issues 44 to 45 and new proposals for tackling (seizing and using for short-term productive usage) empty shop and other properties 59 to 64. Other parts of the plan may also be of interest.

Lots of “good ideas” here but I already sense, even before anyone has replied to me, that while welcoming the initiative being demonstrated, some colleagues are likely to have immediate and potentially justifiable concerns over application, practicality and implementation thereof.  

Few of the proposals are oven ready, some are to be piloted or are to be funded in selected areas where problems are deemed to be particularly severe. I suspect that there a lot, lot more water yet to go under the bridge before some or all of these proposals actually start to impact, and do so everywhere.

That in itself has its challenges. Among the most worry of which is the likely popular presumption that these high-profile new powers are, or will be place, everywhere soon.  When things don’t appear to be improving, it will be local agencies, including local Council’s and wider destination management interests and not Central Government, that are routinely accused of dragging their feet, when in fact they individually or jointly may not have either the authority and/or the resource necessary to implement this generally populist new policy direction.  Both the public and indeed those expected to implement some of these policies need to learn a great deal more about the detail and, in particular, where and when it may or may not apply, before any firm views can be taken about the effectiveness and the improvement likely to result in their own localities.

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