WORK to convert a former primary school into a £5 million care home is set to get under way next month.
Plans to convert and extend the listed Bonaly Primary building in Colinton, which has been lying empty for years, were approved in December last year, with listed building consent granted earlier this month despite concerns over the number of bedrooms and proximity to neighbouring properties.
The developers now hope the 34-bedroom Thorburn Manor Care Home on Thorburn Road will open next March. Director of Thorburn Manor Ltd, Sean Black, said: “There are more people who are for the plans than against them. It will bring the school back into good use, rather than it being flattened.”
Councillors delayed making a decision on the application before it was finally approved at the end of last year after concerns were raised over how close the extension would be to the nearby historic Rustic Cottages and St Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church, and the impact it may have.
The debate centred on how the extension would fit in with the conservation area, with concerns about the design being “inappropriate” and leading to a loss of sunlight and privacy for neighbouring properties.
Marion Williams, director of heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association, which strongly opposed the application, said: “It’s good to use the site but we were concerned that the care home was taking up more space than the site really offered.
“We felt it wouldn’t be a good reflection of the architecture that remains in the school. We would want to see some kind of history retained in the building, but the plans swamp any kind of historical reference.”
Councillor Joanna Mowat, who sits on the development management sub committee and voted against the plans, said the care home would be too close to the Rustic Cottages.
“You have to be very careful with how you develop in Edinburgh, especially in places where you increase the density,” she added.
However, convener of the development management sub committee, Jim Lowrie, was in favour of the care home.
He said: “I think it will be a good asset to the area. I know some of the locals weren’t happy and there are some cottages close to it which were slightly overlooked, but I think on balance it is a good development.
“It will also preserve the building because, if you don’t do anything with a listed building, it deteriorates. It’s only when it is used that it keeps its structure and doesn’t need as much maintenance.”