Construction boost as student homes project to begin and Caltongate revived

An artist's impression of the student flats development in Holyrood Road
An artist's impression of the student flats development in Holyrood Road
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WORK ON a major £110 million development which will provide rooms for more than 1000 students in the Old Town is set to start next year, it has been announced.

Edinburgh University has named construction giant Balfour Beatty as the preferred bidder for its latest development, which will see the area around the current Moray House education centre, between the Canongate and Holyrood Road, given a complete overhaul.

Plans for the site include the demolition of the existing 1960s buildings and the creation of a new outreach centre, 1160 student flats, offices, shops, bars and restaurants.

The plans represent the university’s biggest development since the creation of its informatics centre near George Square.

The news came as another major construction project took a big step forward, with councillors agreeing a deal with the future developer of the Caltongate site.

South African-based developer Artisan is expected to lodge a detailed planning application for the long-unused gap site in the near future and has said it plans to keep the Canongate Venture building in New Street as part of its 
development.

The announcements provide a welcome boost for the city, with plans also in place for a £12m development of 260 postgraduate student flats at the corner of Holyrood Road and Viewcraig Gardens.

The latest proposals have seen developer Balfour Beatty sign a 50-year contract to cover the design, build and maintenance of the facilities.

It expects construction to begin next year, after the funding has been put in place.

Balfour Beatty chief executive Ian Tyler said: “We are delighted to have been selected as preferred bidder for this long-term contract in the student accommodation sector, which is a key area of focus for us. We have worked with the University of Edinburgh on numerous projects over the past 18 years and look forward to supporting them in realising their long-term aspirations to enhance the postgraduate student experience.”

Energy for the facilities will be provided by the university’s combined heat and power energy centre.

Nigel Paul, director of corporate services at Edinburgh University, said: “This is an important project for the university and we are pleased to have reached this key milestone in delivering our plans for the Holyrood campus.

“Balfour Beatty’s involvement can help us create additional opportunities and enhance the experience and engagement of our growing number of postgraduate students by providing a good mix of state-of-the-art accommodation types with excellent 
support and social spaces.”

Last year, university chiefs were forced to scaled back multi-million-pound plans after concerns about the height of two of the buildings.

The announcement came as it emerged the listed Canongate Venture building in New Street, which was threatened with demolition as part of the controversial £300m Caltongate development in the heart of the Old Town, looks likely to be saved under revised proposals.

Artisan, which stepped in after the collapse of Mountgrange, the company behind the original plans, is 
understood to be planning to keep the former school building under its plans. The preservation of the C-listed property became one of the main demands of objectors when the original redevelopment proposals were being debated.

Artisan will still pay around £6.5m towards “public realm improvements” in taking forward the Caltongate project to create a hotel and conference centre, offices, shops, cafes and 165 new homes.

Council planning convener Ian Perry said: “I look forward to the revised application so we can have discussions with the 
developer to deal with this gap site, which is a scar on the centre of Edinburgh.”