Call for debate as student flats get go-ahead

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plans to build more student flats in an area already saturated with university accommodation have been given the go-ahead after a controversial U-turn.

The 237-bed development at Lutton Court, Newington, was turned down by the city council’s planning committee in March amid fears it would push the student population in the area to beyond 60 per cent.

But developers Buile appealed and Scottish Government reporter David Buylla has now ruled that the project – within the council’s former Lutton Court Business Centre on Bernard Terrace – is “supported” by council policy, and would have “no material effect” on the area’s character.

This comes just weeks after Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore and the Southside Association held a summit about the volume of student accommodation applications in the area, and resolved to form a working group on the issue.

These include Unite Students’ bid to build a 579-bed complex on St Leonard’s Street by demolishing the current Homebase DIY store; Edinburgh University’s outline plans to create more student housing on Meadow Lane and Buccleuch Place; and 
proposals to build around 187 student residences in a Causewayside printing ­office.

Mrs Gilmore today vowed to continue to fight the plans for Lutton Court – while Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi is calling for a debate to be held in the Scottish Parliament on the reporter’s “strange” take on council planning policy.

Mrs Gilmore said: “This decision has massive consequences for the Southside, with more than 1500 beds proposed in plans published since the beginning of the year.

“United with other elected representatives for the Southside, I will continue to fight these plans which seek to change the balance of the local community.”

Mr Biagi’s motion for a debate – which has so far been supported by three MSPs – calls on the parliament to discuss the reporter’s “novel interpretation” of the council’s student housing policy.

He said: “The policy is clear. If you want to build purpose-built accommodation, don’t build it where 30 per cent of the population are already in full-time education. That has been completely ignored by the reporter. It’s like going to a court case to be told something wasn’t a crime. It’s a strange approach.”

Resident Jez Kempston, who has previously spoken out about the university’s plans to build student flats at Meadow Lane and Buccleuch Place, said: “The decision all hinged on the interpretation of words, and what an excessive concentration of students is. The reporter is just playing with words. It’s a bit disappointing.”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com