Residents of apartments at Ayr harbour have hit out at South Ayrshire Council’s handling of short-term let applications.

The requirement for permission for such lets was introduced last year.

In May alone, 12 short-term let hearings are scheduled to be held at three special meetings of the council’s regulatory panel. The vast majority relate to apartment blocks around Ayr harbour.

These have been brought before councillors due to objections from residents around the potential impact on security, anti-social behaviour and maintenance issues.

Hearings can be lengthy, with multiple objectors and the applicant given the opportunity to make their case.

Almost 400 applications are still outstanding, each of which could result in a hearing if there are objections from the public or adverse feedback from statutory consultees like the emergency services.

This is around half of the 793 properties on South Ayrshire Council’s short-term let register.

Licence holders can also be brought before councillors should they breach conditions, creating the potential for a wave of lengthy cases.

Fort, Seafield and Wallacetown Community Association (FSWCA) has been airing its concerns about the impact of short-term lets on the community since the law was announced.

And they have claimed that South Ayrshire Council has suppressed objectors during hearings into short-term lets.

A spokesperson for the group said they had been raising residents’ concerns for a number of years and pointed towards issues with a hearing in February.

He said: “At a Licensing Regulatory Panel Hearing, the association and a number of individual objectors made representations to the hearing outlining the negative quality of life effects such lets were having on some communities.”

Following the hearing, the group complained to chief executive Mike Newall that the process ‘lacked openness and accountability and was arguably undemocratic’.

They claim that the order of proceedings favoured the applicant and disadvantaged objectors and said they were unable to address ‘inaccurate’ information given by the applicant that was able to sway a decision in their favour.

They said: “After being the first to address the panel the objectors were not allowed to take any other part in the hearing despite their being aware that some of the information being given by the applicant and his agent was inaccurate and in the objector’s opinion was capable of swaying the licence decision in the applicant’s favour.

“The panel did not seek clarification from objectors at any point during their presentations or at any stage of the hearing and the objectors were left saddened and frustrated by what they saw as a totally undemocratic process.”

These issues were raised at another hearing at the beginning of May, with officials replying that any issues could be addressed upon review of an individual licence.

Asked about the FSWCA complaints, a spokesperson for SAC said: “Throughout the policy development process we have engaged with local community groups and the wider sector with an aim of providing a balanced approach to the delivery of Short-Term Let licensing within South Ayrshire.”

The council also sought to allay concerns around the potential backlog of applications.

They said that, despite half of the applications being outstanding, they are expected to be completed within the legal timescales – 12 months for existing landlords and nine months for a new one.

A spokesperson for the council said that there had been a high volume of applications prior to the deadline for applications on September 30, 2023.

Asked if there were sufficient staff to cope with the influx, the council simply stated they had two full time officers working on short-term lets.

They also stated that the existing budget for the scheme was sufficient at the moment, but ‘will be reviewed’.

The spokesperson added that the council “anticipated that most applications have now been received’ and that staff will be working to identify unlicensed accommodation and invite them to apply”.