RESIDENTS living next to a luxury Airbnb property in Rhu say new government legislature giving local authorities more control over short-term lets is long overdue.

Neighbours of Invergare Castle, a category B, 10-bedroom Baronial house near Helensburgh, have been fighting with Argyll and Bute Council and the owners of the building for more than a year to try and change its use from a personal home to a commercial business.

They claim the mansion has been turned into a “party pad” for groups of up to 20 people at a time, creating a nuisance and causing distress to other householders.

At the latest meeting of Rhu and Shandon Community Council, which was attended by six neighbours of Invergare, community councillor and Rhu resident Derek Hall reported that the situation had got much worse in recent months, saying: “The police have been alerted and incident numbers noted.

“The anti-social behaviour extends to the climbing of parapets on the property, singing sectarian songs, shouting and swearing, all unsupervised as the owners spend quiet evenings at home.

“Their response is that the guests will lose their deposit, which makes the enterprise even more profitable.”

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Last week, Scottish ministers announced that councils are to be given extra powers to crackdown on short-term lets with the option of a licensing scheme which can be introduced from spring 2021.

This would include a new mandatory safety requirement to “ensure a safe, quality experience for visitors,” while it will also give councils the discretion to apply further conditions to address the concerns of local residents.

Mr Hall, who has lived in Rhu for eight years, said: “The house is advertised as an Airbnb property and the owners offer it for rent for occasions like hen and stag parties.

“Our contention is that it is being run as a commercial business, not as an Airbnb, where the owners live in the property and rent it out.

“With the amount of bookings there, we want a change of use.

“It is not unusual for them to have a very loud, Glastonbury-style outdoor sound system with music that can go on until two or three in the morning.

“Within the last year we have called police on 12 separate occasions to try and quieten them down but it does not seem to do any good.

“The owners’ response has been well short of what we feel a responsible owner should do.”

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According to a Scottish Government report on the impact of short-term lets (STLs) on communities, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of listed lettings since 2016, with more than 35,000 currently registered.

Around 2,000 of those are located in Argyll and Bute, the fourth highest rate of all Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

Mike and Sue Thornley, who live at Glenarn, near Invergare, say it is in everyone’s interests to have the problem dealt with to avoid a potentially similar situation arising at other large houses in the area.

“The new powers, if adopted by local authorities, should provide additional safeguards, particularly if licences are revoked when conditions or standards are regularly breached,” Mr Thornley said.

“This would be a great improvement on what happens at present where the owners of Invergare, living in Glasgow, are not able to ensure that the conditions they place on unsupervised guests are adhered to.

“Our own preference is for Invergare to be occupied by the owners as family houses, as has always been the case in the past, when total occupation since the 1970s has never exceeded more than 10 persons – compared with 30, as now occurs.”

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Graham Gardner, who owns the property with his family, told the Advertiser: “As far as we are aware, there has not been any anti-social behaviour beyond guests talking on the patio late at night. The police were asked to attend and fed back to us there was nothing of concern.

“We do ask our guests to respect our neighbours, keep noise outside to a minimum after 10pm and if we are made aware of any anti-social behaviour we would quickly resolve it.

“It’s important to note that we don’t allow stag or hen parties, as we prefer family gatherings.

“When we purchased Invergare it was a wreck and we have invested a huge amount of our own money restoring this important historic building sympathetically and to a high standard.

“The feedback we’ve had from guests on Invergare, the local area and the welcome they’ve received has been extraordinary.

“We’re passionate about Helensburgh, the surrounding area and enjoy the time we spend here with our young family.”

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said: “We are looking into the situation and an enforcement file has been opened.”

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