Plans for student village in Capital rejected

Visuals for the Blue Goose student accommodation plans:

Visuals for the Blue Goose student accommodation plans:

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DEVELOPERS have refused to rule out appealing controversial plans to build a “student village” on the banks of the Water of Leith.

The major scheme would have seen two new student blocks built on either side of the river at Lanark Road in Slateford – providing housing for around 220 students.

Lanark Road, The Blue Goose. Photographer Ian Georgeson

Lanark Road, The Blue Goose. Photographer Ian Georgeson

But city officials blasted the proposals as unsuitable for students and damaging to the local conservation site.

And after what one councillor dubbed an “astonishingly” tight meeting, the plans were thrown out earlier this week – despite strong support from SNP figures.

Developers Lanark Road Living Limited and Rick Finc Associates said there were still “a few routes open” for them to push the scheme forward.

A spokesman for Rick Finc Associates said this could include appealing to the Scottish Government, submitting a revised application or finding a new site. He said a final decision had yet to be made, but added: “We will definitely think about our options.”

The plans would have seen the demolition of the much-loved Blue Goose Country Pub alongside nearby garage and car dealer Westside Motors.

Edinburgh’s Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) launched a bid to save the Blue Goose – which they called a “major community asset” – towards the end of last year.

Pub protection officer Jim Darroch said at the time: “There is no evidence that the applicant has demonstrated that the premises has been sufficiently marketed for continued use as a public house or that [it] is unviable as it stands.

“The pub is an incentive to anyone planning a walk or cycle trip with a lunch or early evening stop along the walkway or the nearby National Cycle Route 75. It thus offers a valuable amenity.”

However, it is understood the bar has now been closed for some months.

Local Green councillor Gavin Corbett urged developers to come up with more creative proposals for the site.

He said: “I’m delighted that the planning committee backed the views of hundreds of local people and refused what would have been a massive over-development in such an important part of the Water of Leith.

“The ball is now in the developer’s court. They can trundle off to the Scottish Government appeal process as so many 
developers do. However, the report recommending refusal is compelling and I just can’t see the [Scottish Government’s] planning reporter coming to a different view.

“So, the developer could use the next few months more creatively. I don’t know anyone who sees a closed pub and a run-down car repair site as the best use of the land.

“It could be a fantastic location, spanning the river, for something which really enhances the entrance to Craiglockhart Dell.”

Cllr Alex Lunn, vice-convenor of the development management sub-committee, backed the student accommodation plans. He said: “While I saw the economic benefits of the proposal, the committee felt it would require an unacceptable loss of Green Belt.

“The vote was very close but as always I respect the decision and my colleagues’ views.”

Community leaders told the Evening News they were “horrified” by the scale of development proposed and “astonished” that the vote had been so tight – despite the council’s own planning officials slamming the scheme.

In a report drawn up before Wednesday’s meeting, officials insisted the proposals were “of an inappropriate design, scale, height, massing and footprint and would represent an 
incongruous feature within the streetscape”.

They added: “The proposal would also have an adverse impact on the flora, fauna and landscape of the local nature conservation site.”

Stewart Campbell, planning spokesman at Longstone Community Council, said: “The council essentially said, ‘This is flying in the face of all the council’s policies’ – but there are some councillors who just don’t care about that.

“I don’t think [the developers] will get anywhere with a new submission, and I don’t think an appeal is going to get anywhere.”

It is understood a private operator would have been expected to take over the completed site, which would not have been affiliated to any specific university but could have targeted students at Heriot-Watt and 
Napier.

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk