DIY store to be demolished for student flats

An artist's impression of the student accommodation, left, that is to be built at the site of Homebase on St Leonard's Street. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the student accommodation, left, that is to be built at the site of Homebase on St Leonard's Street. Picture: contributed
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A VAST DIY store will be demolished to make way for a £38 million student flats complex in the Southside.

Detailed designs for the 579-bed accommodation at the Homebase site on St Leonard’s Street have been unveiled this week. The proposals include plans for a retail unit or health centre within the building, plus a courtyard area.

Developer Unite Students’ initial plans for the complex, which emerged earlier this year, fuelled long-running concerns about an over-saturation of students in the Southside area. But Unite’s regional design and planning director Jagdeep Bhogal – who was in the Capital as part of a two-day public exhibition – insisted that the project would reduce the pressure on private rented accomodation in the area.

Mr Bhogal revealed that the Homebase store would be razed to the ground to allow for a brand-new building on the 1.7 acre site. It was initially believed that the developer would build the flats on top of the existing building.

Mr Bhogal said that while he understood resident’s concerns, the complex would be well-managed and the courtyard area could double-up as a summer festival venue. He described the Southside area as an “education district” which was steadily growing, adding that Unite’s vision would help resolve the issues between the “town and gown” populations.

Mr Bhogal added: “The student diaspora is already here. We can attract students out of the tenements into accommodation which is managed. It’s about providing choice.” Edinburgh-based architects Allan Murray have drawn up the plans for the four-storey building, which they believe will fit in with the “context” of the area, and preserve key views of Arthur’s Seat and the Crags.

The proposals – expected to be submitted to the council by September – include a unit at the side of the building which Unite hopes could accommodate a shop or health provider. Student flats would be on the upper floors, while a large ground floor common room would look out on to St Leonard’s Road.

At the public exhibition which started yesterday, developers invited views on plans to link up the adjacent Parkside Street cul-de-sac with a through road, and build a path to the East Parkside housing behind the site. If successful, Unite would aim to have the the building ready for the 2016 academic year.

The St Leonard’s site is just yards away from the council’s former Lutton Court Business Centre, which was the subject of another planning application for a 240-bed student complex. Planners turned the proposals down earlier this year, however developers lodged an appeal.

Meanwhile residents are already banding together to fight against the University of Edinburgh’s plans for student flats in Meadow Lane, just off Buccleuch Street.

Local resident Jez Kempston said: “There are already too many students living in the area. Although I like students being here, they are temporary residents. It would be much better if there were more local residents and a social mix rather than a student-only development.”

The Unite exhibition will run at St Margaret’s and St Leonard’s Catholic Church again today from 3pm-8pm.

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com