Residents object to new student flats next to the Union Canal in Edinburgh

Residents are objecting to a developer's bid to switch from building new flats next to the Union Canal to putting up student accommodation on the site instead.
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And they say they are dismayed that council officials are backing the move.

Glencairn Properties were given the go-ahead for a four-storey block of 20 flats on the canalside at Fountainbridge just in July after appealing against the council’s refusal of the proposals.

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But now the firm has submitted an application to change the development at 7 Lower Gilmore Place to 74-bed student accommodation.

Student flats are now proposed for the canalside at Lower Gilmore PlaceStudent flats are now proposed for the canalside at Lower Gilmore Place
Student flats are now proposed for the canalside at Lower Gilmore Place

Ishbel MacFarlane, of the Gilmore Place Lochrin Residents Association, said there was already an over-supply of student accommodation in the area and the primary local need was for new residential housing.

"The Fountainbridge Development Brief, which was written by the council as the masterplan for the area, says it should be predominantly residential. There are already 6,500 student beds within a 15 minute walk of this site and that's not to mention hotels, Airbnb and other short-term lets.

"They've had 83 objections and only one comment of support, yet they are still recommending approval.”

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Ms MacFarlane also pointed to comments made by Glencairn managing director Daryl Teague when he was trying to persuade councillors to allow the previous proposals. He told them: “I am a homebuilder. My mission is to build houses for people in Edinburgh, places to create community. What this proposal is not, unlike many sites in similar locations, is for short-term rental accommodation, hotel or student accommodation.”

Existing buildings in Lower Gilmore PlaceExisting buildings in Lower Gilmore Place
Existing buildings in Lower Gilmore Place

Tollcross community council has also objected to the latest applications. Its submission says: “For over a decade now, local people have been buying into development plans and masterplans which have stated that the aim of developments in this area is to create a new community where people can live and work. What we should be seeing is mixed-use development that blends a combination of residential, commercial, and cultural uses.

"Unfortunately, this vision of a new locality has not materialised. So far, we have seen the building of hotels, apart-hotels, a school, many student residences and the burgeoning of short-term let accommodation. This means that the new population of the area is a transient one and not forming a sustainable community.

"The area is at risk of becoming more a student campus, almost a student ghetto more than what it should be, a permanent residential urban community.”

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And Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack posted on Twitter: “I hope the planning committee consider the concerns raised by the community in opposition to this proposal – we have a housing shortage in the city which needs to be addressed urgently.”

Responding to the local concerns, Mr Teague said the previous plan for a residential development, which would have included nine affordable homes out of 20 in total, did not “stack up” financially.

“Originally we bought the site for residential use and we tried to pursue residential development. Until you get through the full process of planning permission you don’t fully know what the cost is going to be.”

He said local people had objected to the plans for residential development too and the latest proposals were smaller in scale. He insisted there were already major housing developments in the area and said the plans would bring much-needed regeneration to the street.

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