Community groups have hit out at proposals to build a hotel and hospitality school at a site already earmarked for business space.
The Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), which is owned by the city council, has tabled plans to build and manage a 400-bedroom hotel at the nearby India Quay, next to the new Boroughmuir High School in Fountainbridge.
It is thought the city council would need to borrow up to £50 million and shelve the original plans for the site. The council bought the land as part of the school development and had previously earmarked the site for a mixed-use development.
The hotel proposals were discussed by the council’s housing and economy committee behind closed doors and the scheme has been referred back for the full council to examine more closely.
Community groups spoke out against the hotel plans.
Simon Braunholtz, from the Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative, said: “What we are trying to do is look at the site as a unique opportunity and one that should be protected from little nibbles here and there.
“People do feel the site needs to be a mixed development. There’s so much transient housing in the area. That does not build a community. This site is being damaged by the continual bit-by-bit allocation of space to transient population use. That will not provide a healthy sustainable local population.”
Cllr Gavin Corbett, Green ward member for Fountainbridge, lambasted the proposals from the EICC and instead called for the site to be used for the community. He said: “The last thing that Fountainbridge needs or wants is another hotel.
“In seven years of working with community groups in the area and speaking to hundreds of people, what I’ve heard is lots of ambition for one of Edinburgh’s heartlands – more affordable homes, places for people to work and expand businesses and social enterprises, community space and the need for real identity. Not once has anyone argued for more hotels.”
He added: “There are 2,000 more hotel beds coming to Edinburgh between now and 2020 - more than enough to meet demand. The council needs to get on with supporting a proper vision for Fountainbridge, which matches community aspirations.
“It needs to ignore EICC’s ham-fisted attempts to overturn seven years of community planning.” Conservative Cllr John McLelllan said: “It is crucial that the full implications of all the proposals for this part of the India Quay site are properly evaluated and that includes the EICC’s proposition for a hotel and hospitality school.
“The EICC’s vision for its future is compelling, but the problem is the scheme only works if it is within walking distance of the centre itself and this nearby, derelict, council-owned site is already earmarked for business use.
“The conference centre is a key component of the city’s economy, without which Edinburgh could vanish from the international business calendar, so its protection and development should be an absolute priority for the council.”
A council spokesperson said: “This report has been referred to the next council meeting on June 28 for a decision.”