New legislation on short-term letting could devastate rural tourism, Oireachtas committee warned

Under new Bill, properties listed for short-term letting may need planning permission for tourism activity if they do not already have it

Making it compulsory for a premises to have planning permission before it could be subject to a short-term let could have “serious consequences” for tourism in rural Ireland, an Oireachtas committee has been told.

The Government’s Bill on short-term letting is part of the Housing for All plan. Properties advertised for short-term letting, such as on Airbnb, may have to have planning permission granted if they do not have it already for tourism activity.

New developments will also need planning permission if they are to be advertised for short-term letting. All properties subject to short-term letting will have to be registered with Fáilte Ireland.

It is hoped the legislation will put 12,000 properties back on the housing market or into the long-term rental sector.


Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh said such a measure was appropriate in the cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway which have significant housing shortages.

However, he told the Oireachtas Committee on Tourism that the requirement for planning permission “risked denuding rural and coastal Ireland of self-catering properties just when additional tourism supply is most needed”.

He said the necessity to seek planning permission is likely to be a deterrent for many would-be short-term operators and would also represent a reduction in the value of the same property for the owner.

“Urban and non-urban areas must be treated differently. It is welcome that there is a six month grace period planned but ITIC is firmly of the opinion that the legislation and planning guidelines needs clarification,” he explained.

He said that industry had not seen the guidelines from the Department of Housing and were unsure if they would be applied to existing short-term lets.

Boreen too narrow

Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan said many potential tourism businesses in rural Ireland were being turned down for planning permission already because “the boreen is too narrow and a whole range of reasons”.

“Unless we rectify this, we are going to lose accommodation right throughout the south and west of Ireland. It’s going to have a massive knock-on effect.”

Irish Self-Catering Federation chair Máire Ní Mhurchú said many of her members would be put off by the cost of planning permission and many self-catering properties would be too isolated to be put on to the market for long-term rent.

“Self-catering accommodation business that have operated in the tourism space for over seven years should be allowed continue to trade as should families who have diversified their farm or family income,” she suggested.

Airbnb’s general manager for northern Europe Amanda Cupples said it was a “myth” to suggest that most Airbnb owners have multiple properties.

“It’s very low single-digit figure,” she said. “I know a lot of people find this hard to believe, but it is actually true. It is not the bulk of our business.

“A very substantial portion of our business is private room business and, of the rest, it is almost entirely town homes with a single listing and one host.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times