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'We have been derailed by Scottish Government legislation': Unique Highland railway accommodation business Sleeperzzz hits the buffers after 27 years

By Caroline McMorran

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A UNIQUE and long-established Sutherland hospitality business has hit the buffers after operators decided the newly introduced short-term let licensing regulations were too onerous to meet.

Frank and Kate Roach have run Sleeperzzz, which offered a rail-themed budget accommodation at Rogart Railway Station, for the last 27 years.

Kate Roach next to one of the Sleeperzzz carriages.
Kate Roach next to one of the Sleeperzzz carriages.

Visitors have been able to choose between sleeping in the Waiting Room – a studio apartment in part of the original station building; a converted 12-ton goods van; or first-class railway carriages.

But the couple, who live in the station master’s house, have now posted on the Sleeperzzz website: “Sleeperzzz has now closed permanently, as it is just too hard for us to comply with the new Scottish Government legislation on short-term lets. We would like to thank our friends and guests who have made the last 27 years so memorable.”

Legislation introduced last year by the Scottish Parliament requires people who let out accommodation on a short-term basis to have a licence.

The scheme is being administered by local authorities and includes lets in your own home, holiday cottages, guest houses, B&Bs and unconventional accommodation such as pods and yurts.

The legislation was developed in response to concerns raised by residents and communities about the impact of short-term let properties on their local communities, including noise, antisocial behaviour and the impact on the supply of housing in some areas

Existing hosts were originally told they had to apply for a short-term let licence by March 31, but this has now been extended to September 30.

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers has said that many of the “additional conditions” set out by Highland Council and which accommodation providers are required to meet, are wholly unnecessary.

Mrs Roach said that in order to comply with the legislation a large amount of work would have had to be undertaken including insulating the carriages and upgrading electrical wiring.

She said the work required would be costly and she could not consider putting up her prices, given Sleeperzzz caters for the budget traveller market.

“Enough is enough,” she said. “We just thought we can’t do it any more. Perhaps if we had been younger and starting out, we would have considered it.

“It is a real shame and really sad. We have got customers ringing up to say ‘We are so sad to hear you are closing’.”

Sleeperzzz averaged around 1,500 bed nights a year and its closure will have a knock-on effect on the local economy.

“Our customers from around the world became our friends - one motorcyclist came over 100 times,” said Mr Roach. “The impact is not just on us. It’s 1,500 overnights lost from the village, all folk who spent money in the shop, pub and garage.

“Running a small business is becoming ever more expensive and difficult. We have been derailed by Scottish Government legislation designed to deal with the Edinburgh Airbnb problem. The new regulations have sadly brought us to the end of the line.”

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