Student housing plan for St Paul’s church alarms locals

St Paul's Church in Muirhouse was gutted by fire. Picture: Hemedia
St Paul's Church in Muirhouse was gutted by fire. Picture: Hemedia
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CONCERNS have been raised over plans to build new student flats on the site of a fire-ravaged former church.

St Paul’s Catholic Church was badly damaged in a fireraising attack in December 2014, just two months after it closed to parishioners.

We are quite alarmed that the developer has come in and said this is going to happen. There is already student accommodation for the college campus and those units are never full.

Roy Douglas

Now plans have been tabled to demolish the building, which stands on the corner of Muirhouse Avenue and Pennywell Road, to make way for three blocks accommodating 108 students.

The blueprint has been submitted to the city council by EMA Architecture and Design, on behalf of Robert MacKenzie, who bought the site last year.

He claims the three-storey brick development would complement the ongoing regeneration of the surrounding area, and serve students at the nearby Granton campus of Edinburgh College.

But local residents fear it will not be in keeping with the wider plans for the district, which is undergoing a phased development of 700 affordable and private new homes, and would fail to attract students.

Forth ward councillor and city housing leader Cammy Day described the application as “left-field”.

He said: “It needs to be a place where there’s good services for students and that’s not quite the place for it, in the heart of the regeneration of Pennywell and Muirhouse.

“We have got a bid in to the Scottish Government for money to completely regenerate the shopping centre, and that, alongside the housing development and permission to go ahead with the health centre, will mean that whole hub will be transformed.

“What will happen in the summer time? We’ll have blocks left empty where we could have had good quality family affordable housing.”

Muirhouse Salveson community council chairman Roy Douglas said: “The community had aspirations that if anything happened to that land, it would be an asset to the community, or that it would be used for social housing.

“We are quite alarmed that the developer has come in and said this is going to happen. There is already student accommodation for the college campus and those units are never full.”

Mr MacKenzie said he was waiting for feedback from the council’s planning department and said he was happy to speak to the community about any concerns they have.

He said he had opted for the student accommodation project after conducting research. “I spoke to Edinburgh College and they said there is a shortage in the area,” he said. “A report was also done by the council last yearthat identified a shortage of purpose-built places. It’s a 12-minute walk to Edinburgh College, and it’s very close to Ferry Road, so you could catch buses to the Bridges and go to Edinburgh University.”

“We will be managing it as a family business and it will be managed locally. There would be a warden system for each block. It will be run with care and respect.”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com