Broughton school ‘pod’ housing plan refused

The housing pods are the last word in compact design, and would cost around �100k. Picture: contributed
The housing pods are the last word in compact design, and would cost around �100k. Picture: contributed
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A BID to convert a mothballed school building into Japanese-style housing pods – thought to be Scotland’s smallest properties – has been derailed for overlooking a children’s playground.

Around 73 “smart” micro-homes were planned for a disused block within Broughton Primary School – but the design hit the buffers because of widespread opposition from parents groups. The innovative development was narrowly refused by one vote.

Valued at around £100,000 each, the “affordable but aspirational” properties would have been roughly the same size as a squash court and were being championed as a new front in the battle to propel first-time buyers into the housing market.

But a mass of objections from parents, politicians and heritage groups put paid to the plan – though developers Kingsford Estate are likely to appeal the decision.

Key concerns included traffic congestion, “poor” public consultation and the potential friction with noisy schoolchildren in the playground and an adult population living nearby.

The B-listed building, in Broughton Road, housed council officers for years until 2011 when it went up for sale.

Alex Watt, director at Kingsford Estates which lodged the designs, said he was “disappointed” with the board’s decision but vowed to appeal.

He said: “We have a lot of empathy with the parents and we worked really hard to speak with them and work with them.

“The basic planning point is that as a city we need good quality affordable housing and this would make good use of that site to preserve a listed building.

“There would have been a maximum of 20 residential occupants overlooking the playground as opposed 300 or 400 employees in an office.

“I was kind of bemused by the parents’ argument that they would prefer offices.”

Based on Japanese urban pods, householders moving into the bijou apartments would have found themselves block buying utilities such as power, broadband and digital television packages to reap cheaper bills. A shared gym, private dining room (which can be booked for special events), solar-charged electric car pool, garden roof terrace, communal lounge/work area and concierge service were further perks.

However Malcolm Chisholm, MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith, expressed “surprise” at the number of planning guidelines the proposal appeared to contravene.

Sandra Bagnall, of Broughton Primary School parent council, also welcomed the planners’ decision. She said: “We are delighted.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com