Certificate of Lawfulness Application service

Craig Douglas, Director of STL Solutions, explains the problem that STL Operators face and how we can help.

The problem we are solving

The Scottish Government has introduced Regulation that requires STL Operators to hold an STL Licence that demonstrates that they meet health and safety requirements.

Some Local Authorities have incorrectly applied the Licensing Order (perhaps intentionally) to make an STL Licence dependent on an award of planning permission in all cases for 'flats', which they subsequently refuse to grant. Advice given to us by leading planning lawyers is that this is not a lawful position to take.

As a consequence, STL Operators now face the loss of their businesses.

How we solve this problem

The Scottish Planning system provides an instrument called a Certificate of Lawfulness (COL). The purpose of the COL is to confirm that Planning Permission is not required, for example because there has been no material change of use.

An Operator can continue to trade during the COL application and appeal process. Appeal to a COL rejection is handled by a different authority (the Department of Planning & Environment Agency - DPEA) that is more likely to approve an application.

By applying for and acquiring a COL, an STL Operator can at least delay, and potentially defeat, the Local Authority's illegal attempt to make STL Licence award dependent on Planning Permission.

The service we offer

We are offering STL Operators in seven Local Authority areas a turnkey solution that maximises the probability of securing a Certificate of Lawfulness for the Operator.

The seven Local Authorities we service are: Edinburgh, Glasgow, East Lothian, Fife, Aberdeen, Highlands, and Perth and Kinross.

STL Solutions is unable to prepare an STL Licence for you. However, to prepare a Licence you will require a Planning Application reference, which we will supply as part of the service. We can also provide helpful materials on how to prepare an STL Licence application.

To use this service, you must have verifiable evidence of having been an STL Operator in Scotland before 1st of October 2022 (5th of September in Edinburgh).

The benefits of the service

Applying for a Certificate of Lawfulness rather than Planning Permission provides the following benefits:

  • Almost every application for Planning Permission since October 2022 for an STL has been rejected
  • No neighbour notification is required
  • No 25% “unlawful retrospective” surcharge is owed
  • Your calendar remains open during the entire process, allowing you to continue to operate for months beyond the deadline
  • You can raise prices (in some cases, by up to 30%) because there are fewer available STLs
  • Your business will be more valuable

The most significant benefit, however, is that your Appeal to the Local Authority’s rejection of your application is made to the Department for Planning & Environmental Appeals.

This is a national body that assesses your application on legal rather than political criteria, and follows case law - specifically, Moore v Secretary of State - which states only that an STL may need planning permission, and only if there has been a material change of use.

We will help you argue that your application is not a material change of use, significantly improving your probability of success.

The cost of our service

The cost of our service is £1,150 per property. This covers the cost of preparing, submitting, and appealing your application for a Certificate of Lawfulness.

Depending on your circumstances, there may be a low likelihood of success. However, by using our service you will still benefit from the income from an extension of your trading window of several months.

To give an idea of costs, a typical operator in Edinburgh would incur the following costs for a one bedroom property:

  • Licence application : £653 (varies depending on guest numbers)
  • Planning application fee: £600 (£600 per 100m2)
  • STL Solutions fee: £1,150 (excluding VAT)

So the total cost in this example would be £2,403 for potentially an extra 6 months or more trading.

Many operators are making a commercial decision to proceed with a licence and certificate of lawfulness application as even if they prove to be unsuccessful, this process may extend their trading period whilst the application and appeals are being considered.

Whilst we cannot forecast the future, similar applications and appeals are currently taking an average of 8 months.

How it works

Here’s how the process works after you register your interest: