Students flats plan gets doctor’s surgery

An artist's impression of the St Leonard's Street student flats development.Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the St Leonard's Street student flats development.Picture: contributed
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Fringe performers will be able to rent out student flats at discount rates if controversial housing plans get the green light.

Student accommodation company Unite wants to build the 579-bed development on St Leonard’s Street where DIY store Homebase is now based.

The £30 million proposals, which go before planning bosses tomorrow, also include a new doctor’s surgery serving Southside.

Locals have slammed the development amid claims it would push the student population in the area beyond 60 per cent and destroy their community.

But Jagdeep Bhogal, design and planning director at Unite Students, insisted the development would help tackle the “pressing shortage” of affordable accommodation during the festival period.

He said: “Unite and the Fringe Society are working collaboratively to provide a long-term agreement to take bookings at a discounted rate at St Leonard’s and other accommodation in Edinburgh.

“Edinburgh’s summer festivals are the world’s biggest and best, and Unite is delighted to be the first student housing provider to deliver a partnership with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to provide more affordable accommodation for performers and participants.”

Unite, the UK’s biggest student accommodation provider, now has 659 student places in the city.

The development would also be yards from another 240-bed student accommodation site in the former Lutton Court Business Centre, on Bernard Terrace.

Culture chiefs have welcomed the proposal, claiming the partnership would help “grow the festival and meet the challenge” of finding performers affordable places to stay.

In a letter of support, Lyndsey Jackson, head of operations for the Fringe, said: “The Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world; in 2014 we saw nearly 50,000 performances of 3193 shows in 299 venues over 25 days.

“With over 25,000 participants, the challenge year-on-year is helping them find affordable, quality 
accommodation for their extended stay in our city.

“The provision of well-managed, affordable and high-quality accommodation is key to their experience and, ultimately, when they return to us in future years, helping to grow the Fringe.”

She added: “Artists and performers are not booked to attend by the Fringe Society, and many undertake the festival knowing the risks and financial burdens. The risk for the Fringe Society is that other festivals provide a more affordable experience for participants and we see a decline in our registration as a result of prohibitive costs outside our control.” Subject to planning, Unite bosses expect that the scheme will be completed in time for the 2016-17 academic year.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com