Edinburgh student accommodation: Plans to demolish office building in Newington for student flats 'simply unsupportable'

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Plans to bulldoze turn-of-the century office building in Newington to make way for student housing has been described as “simply unsupportable” by Edinburgh conservation group the Cockburn Association.

City-based SDR Property Developments Ltd wants to clear the site in Ratcliffe Terrace and build two six-storey accommodation blocks with a total of 59 student bedrooms. But in an official objection to the proposal, the Cockburn Association says the demolition of the current three-storey brick office building cannot be justified. 

The existing three-storey office building on the site would be demolished to make way for student housing.The existing three-storey office building on the site would be demolished to make way for student housing.
The existing three-storey office building on the site would be demolished to make way for student housing.

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The Cockburn says: “This quirky, distinctive and highly  original building is clearly suitable for continued use or  for imaginative conversion.  It is of some local heritage interest and  a valuable survivor of a Newington streetscape that has lost many similar features of interest and distinction over the years. In the current climate emergency the continued demolition of perfectly sound and usable buildings such as this  is simply unsupportable.”

As well as the office building, which is the base for a specialist design company, the site, at 27-29 and 31 Ratcliffe Terrace, currently includes three other buildings which are the premises of Causewayside Garage. On one side there is Jewsons timber yard and on the other an open car park area.

The developers say many industrial buildings and workshops have slowly disappeared from the area over the past 20 years and describe the site where they want to build the student housing as "effectively a gap in the predominantly residential tenement form on the rest of Ratcliffe Terrace".

The new blocks - which would be linked by a glazed bridge at first-floor level and use courtyards to maximise light - would be finished in buff multi-brick with red zinc cladding.

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But the Cockburn says the proposed development “has nothing to recommend it.”    The objection says: “It is of a poor architectural design  whose  height, scale, bulk, massing, horizontal pattern and materiality are odds with the prevailing streetscape.   We question whether this proposal has appropriate levels of internal and external amenity space, external greenspace and adequate access and servicing arrangements.”

And the Cocburn adds: “We also note local concerns regarding the increasing concentration of student accommodation  blocks in this area of the city.  These concerns underline the need  for objective, comprehensive and data-driven student needs assessments to accompany every purpose-built student accommodation application.”

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