Ringing the changes at old BT site

An artist's impression of the redeveloped telephone exchange
An artist's impression of the redeveloped telephone exchange
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A CONTROVERSIAL housing development that once drew protests from the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland has been approved, despite local objections.

In the face of a wave of protests from residents, the city council has approved plans to convert the old Woodcroft Telephone Exchange in Pitsligo Road into 60 luxury apartments and 24 townhouses. Former plans for the site, approved in 2006, had drawn the ire of Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who lives in nearby Greenhill Gardens. He had complained about the impact of the plans on road safety.

However, these proposals were shelved in 2008 as a result of the credit crunch and a new, revised application was resubmitted last October.

Developer Telereal Trillium plans to demolish the old C-listed exchange for its new housing development, a move locals are in part supportive of, viewing it as the rejuvenation of a long-disused site. However, a host of objections were still raised concerning road safety and excessive development in what is a conservation area.

Merchiston Community Council chair Marianna Clyde said: “We are glad that this hideous building will be demolished but we would much rather have had some affordable housing or a public park rather than more £500,000 luxury homes.”

Canaan Lane resident Margaret Butchart said in objection to the proposal: “The large five-storey buildings fronting on to Newbattle Terrace are completely out of scale and inappropriate to this very important conservation area.”

Catherine Bruce-Gardyne, of Newbattle Terrace, echoed this and said: “The pavements on Newbattle Terrace are very narrow at Eden Lane and at the bottom of Pitsligo Road. Pedestrians have to step into the road when pushchairs are coming.”

However, local councillor Paul Godzik welcomed the news. He said: “I know that this was a controversial application and that there were mixed views about the site but I feel it’s a good thing that some new life will be brought back into the long unoccupied site.”

BT property portfolio holders Telereal Trillium took over all of BT’s properties in 2004. BT now leases the buildings it uses from Telereal.

A spokeswoman said: “We believe this development will help establish a long-term viable future for the redundant telephone exchange site.”

The development cannot begin until the plans are approved by the Scottish Executive, as the telephone exchange is a listed building.

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com