£38m Student housing plan for St Leonard’s area

Unite is planning to build student flats above the Homebase store in St Leonard's Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Unite is planning to build student flats above the Homebase store in St Leonard's Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A £38 million development to create more student housing in the heart of the Capital has been slammed by local residents who fear it will destroy the community.

Student accommodation company Unite has struck a deal to purchase a 1.8 acre development site on St Leonard’s Street, where DIY store Homebase is currently based.

This is just yards from another controversial 240-bed student accommodation site within the council’s former Lutton Court Business Centre, on Bernard Terrace.

Locals are already up in arms as this will push the student population in the area to beyond 60 per cent.

Unite has revealed its plan is to refurbish the retail unit and build student flats on top of the existing premises as part of a five-storey development.

Subject to planning, Unite bosses expect that the scheme will be completed in time for the 2016-17 academic year.

Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore said: “Residents who are already aghast at plans to build student accommodation at Bernard Terrace will be appalled to hear Homebase has sold to Unite. I will oppose this new proposal from the outset.

“The council needs to look at its own polices, which state we cannot have excessive student populations in any one area. Student blocks are being crammed into the Southside and city centre without a holistic thought about the longevity of the area.”

She added: “What we need is a balanced population in the heart of our city.”

This was echoed by local resident Stephen Carter, of the Lutton Court Residents Group due to make a representation when the controversial bid is heard at council on March 12.

He said: “Until you see the plans for the St Leonard’s Street site you can’t comment but the issue we have is the growing numbers of students in the Southside.

“Students are good for an area as they bring life but the problem is that with an excessive concentration you gain a transient population and no real community. Southside Community Council closed several years ago, which is symptomatic of the problem.”