A £14.5 million bid to turn a historic high school into flats has been given the green light – dashing hopes of transforming it into a cultural hub and sparking criticism the move was a “lost opportunity”.
Councillors have voted 11-2 in favour of an offer from Cala Homes which will see the old Boroughmuir High become a major residential block with around 100 apartments.
Cala’s success comes at the expense of a £6.2m bid from Out of the Blue Trust, which wanted to turn the school into an arts space featuring studios, performance areas and workshops.
Councillors have also backed plans to plough proceeds into schools and elderly care, with developments such as a proposed new south Edinburgh primary set to benefit.
Pupils and staff at Boroughmuir High are preparing to move to a £35m campus on the former Fountain Brewery grounds next year.
Out of the Blue leaders said they were disappointed but not surprised following yesterday’s vote. Chairman John Molleson said: “It was just an extraordinarily exciting opportunity to provide a creative hub that would support Edinburgh’s exponential growth [in] the creative industries.
“It’s probably the biggest building the council will ever sell and it’s the biggest opportunity we’ve had to support this kind of enterprise.”
Councillor Gavin Corbett, finance spokesman for the city’s Greens, who voted to delay the decision so additional information could be assessed, said: “At the very least the council should have paused to weigh up all the risks and benefits of rival bids.
“At the same time, it is clear that there are risks and uncertainties attached to the preferred bid from Cala Homes – for example, on the impact on local school capacity, and the affordability of the homes produced.”
However, the vote in favour of Cala’s bid has been welcomed by city bosses.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Decisions like these are always difficult but I’m pleased we are committed to ploughing additional funding into schools and education, and care for the elderly.”
Councillor Alasdair Rankin, finance chief, added: “Everyone has a lot of sympathy for the community bid but at the end of the day, this comes down to how much money we can get to invest in our high priority areas – education, for example.”