Theatre at risk as student flats plan set for go-ahead

An artist's impression of the proposed student flats
An artist's impression of the proposed student flats
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ONE of Edinburgh’s oldest theatre buildings is set to be demolished to make way for student flats despite dozens of objections from local residents.

Developers want to use the site of the former Gateway Theatre on Elm Row to build a new development to accommodate 155 students. The “high- quality” student accommodation will include a cinema, gym, seminar rooms and communal lounge areas for its residents.

It will have an on-site concierge and a 24-hour help desk in a bid to “minimise disruption to the local community and to assist in controlling any antisocial behaviour”.

However, neighbours are concerned about the area being swamped with student housing and have complained about the potential for noise nuisance, loss of privacy, falling property prices and traffic problems.

A total of 64 letters of objection have been submitted to city planners, however it has been recommended for approval.

The Theatres Trust has also objected to the development, stating that the Gateway features in the top five of its most endangered on its Theatre Buildings at Risk register in Scotland.

One local resident, Paul Lindsay, who objected to the application, said: “Having 155 students on our doorstep does not appeal to how we like to live our lives. Students can be reckless, live unsociable hours and cause high levels of mess.

“The building will also not keep within the old fashioned look of local buildings and could be detrimental in the overall price of our property.”

Another resident, Julia Hanbidge, said: “Given that the flats will house students, I am concerned about the level of noise, particularly late at night.

“Housing an additional 155 individuals in this area will result in a vast amount of additional waste and pollution, in an area where seagulls are already a problem.”

But John Bury, head of planning, has recommended that the application is granted. He said: “The applicants have stated that it is their intention to develop high-quality student accommodation aimed at the upper end of the student housing market and which will appeal to international and graduate students.”

He added that the development will have “no detrimental impact on residential amenity or road safety” and that it will be a “sustainable addition to the city’s built environment”.

The Gateway Theatre, which formerly housed Queen Margaret University’s drama centre, closed in 2005 after a safety inspection revealed major defects in the building.

If plans are approved, Developer London Cornwall Property Partners hopes to begin working on the site early next year with a view to having the accommodation ready for students in 2013.

Councillors will make a decision on Wednesday.