Steve Coyle: Students make massive contribution to economy

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SOME of you may have noticed a number of signs dotted around Edinburgh building sites saying: “Student accommodation coming soon.” Developments are under way at Leith Walk, Abbeyhill, Hillside Crescent, Holyrood Road, and Fountainbridge and a £30.7 million 
student residential project at Lutton Place was recently approved by Edinburgh City Council. These developments can’t come soon enough and are good news for students and positive news for Edinburgh.

Currently, student accommodation is hot property, with demand arguably outweighing supply. Every year we have students queuing up the street to view our properties and secure a flat. Edinburgh University is rising in the world league tables and as it continues to do so, it will attract more students, and be able to afford the best professors and lecturers from around the globe. They all need somewhere to live and it’s only right Edinburgh welcomes them with open arms and has enough property available to make new residents feel at home.

Many locals forget about the benefits of living in a heavily student-populated city. Each student, on average, spends at least circa £25,000 per annum (£10,000 university fees, £6000 rent/house costs, £6000 living, £3000 other expenses). Developing an environment which is attractive to these “customers of Edinburgh” seems like a positive way forward as they directly or indirectly benefit us all.

Some may argue that students are noisy, untidy, or don’t pay council tax but the benefits to the city far outweigh the negatives. For example, the 237 residents of the newly proposed Lutton Place development will spend circa £60 million-plus in the city over the next ten years on everything from pencils and pizzas to cars, clothes and courses, thereby contributing significantly to Edinburgh’s economy.

According to Edinburgh by Numbers, a report produced by the council, 90 per cent of Edinburgh residents have recently said that they feel safe walking around their city. Perhaps this is because every sixth person they walk past is likely to be a student, some of whom choose to stay in Edinburgh and work once they graduate. Many elderly residents in the city actually enjoy living in and around the student areas because they see the vitality and energy that bright young people bring to an area.

Our city needs our students, as much as our students need this city. We should embrace them and see these student developments as a good aspirational move forward, as long as they are done well and built sensibly, in the right areas. If we invest time and care into our students, they will in turn invest back into the city where they studied, which in turn also benefits local people. It’s a win-win.

Steve Coyle is Cullen Property’s operations director