Plan to turn former Northfield House Hotel into Edinburgh student flats could still go ahead

Rejected proposals to demolish a 19th-century hotel and replace it with student flats could still go ahead after the developers appealed to the Scottish government.

Property developers Audley (Edinburgh) Limited, which is registered in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, want to demolish the Northfield House Hotel on Lasswade Road, Liberton.

The developer’s plans would see the hotel, which dates back to 1870, replaced with a five-storey student accommodation block with 103 bedrooms.

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The council received 98 letters of objection from concerned residents, along with 28 letters of support.

Northfield House Hotel in LibertonNorthfield House Hotel in Liberton
Northfield House Hotel in Liberton

Objectors raised concerns over the perceived over-provision of student accommodation in the area, as well as the need for affordable housing in the area, and the size and scale of the proposed development.

Supporters of the proposals say the students will bring economic benefits to the area, and that making bespoke student accommodation available will reduce the demand, and therefore the cost, for rented flats in the area.

A design statement, submitted by capital-based architects 56three, reads: “The house operates as a hotel and restaurant, with four ensuite bedrooms, customer lounge, dining and bar.

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“The house has had numerous alterations and extensions over the years, notably the conservatory style restaurant to the south and back of house service areas to the east and north.

Artist's rendition of the proposed redevelopmentArtist's rendition of the proposed redevelopment
Artist's rendition of the proposed redevelopment

“The hotel is currently closed but was previously operating on an adhoc basis for private functions prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The kitchen and dining facilities were also previously closed to nonresidents.

“The owners have reviewed the business model for the hotel and have concluded that the retention of the existing house is not viable.

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“The inflexibility of the existing house does not lend itself to suitable conversion to provide sufficient, modern facilities to be competitive within the Edinburgh service industry.

“The house provides a limited internal floor area compared to its large plot size. We have reviewed options for extending the building however due to the small scale of the house and its position on site there is limited opportunity to provide a suitable increase in density.

“The proposal is to demolish the house to make way for a new purpose built development. The house is not listed and there is limited architectural merit to warrant retention.”

However, at a meeting of Edinburgh City Council’s development management committee on Wednesday January 13, the plans were rejected by councillors for being ‘contrary to the local development plan policy’.

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The decision notice, explaining the reasons for refusal and drafted by members of the council’s planning team, added that the development ‘would be damaging to the character and appearance of the area around it’.

It continues: “It has not been demonstrated that the existing characteristics and features worthy of retention on the site have been identified, incorporated and enhanced through its design.”

Now, the developers have appealed to the Scottish government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA).

Both the developers and the council will now have to submit their arguments, before a reporter, acting on behalf of government ministers, will rule on the matter.

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