Huge student flats complex plan for Leith Walk

The area at Haddington Place has been a long-standing problem on Leith Walk. Picture: Greg Macvean
The area at Haddington Place has been a long-standing problem on Leith Walk. Picture: Greg Macvean
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PLANS have been lodged to build a 220-bed student complex in a notorious city gap site.

The blueprints for the huge development on Leith Walk include student accommodation as well as shops, cafes, a restaurant and a gym.

It would plug a long-standing gap at Haddington Place but comes amid a wave of planning applications to build student flats throughout the Capital, with many concentrated in the Southside.

Community groups have welcomed the designs, claiming they would blend in with the existing buildings.

It is thought an increase in the student population would provide a boon for Leith Walk businesses that have struggled during years of tram works.

Cron MacKay, chairman of Leith Civic Trust, said the proposal had many benefits.

“This is a good area for young people,” he said.

“I also think local businesses have had a dreadful time and I think something like this could be a great help to them – they need a lot more people to be living in the area.”

The site, measuring just under a quarter of a hectare, was formerly home to a petrol station, and housed the original Botanic Cottage.

Work to rebuild the cottage at the Royal Botanic Garden is set to start later this year.

The derelict plot, which rests in the New Town Conservation Area and forms part the New Town Designed Garden 
Inventory site, sits next to the category B-listed McDonald Road Library.

S Harrison Developments Ltd, which has acquired the site, has hailed the “rich history and important part” the area has played in the city’s past.

They said the proposals would transform an “unsightly gap site in an elegant streetscape” in a move that will “enhance the whole area”.

Alex Wilson, of Leith ­Business Association, attended a presentation of the plans at a community council meeting in June.

He said the complex would be “a good in-fill” for the gap site.

“It’s a nice idea and it looks like it will blend in nicely – it will use natural stone and is very sympathetic to its surroundings,” he said.

He also believes the building could become an asset and that boosting the number of students in the area would be a coup for local retailers. “The area is changing – this development fills a need,” he said.

A summit has been held in Southside to consider the volume of new applications for student accommodation which includes Unite Students’ bid to build a 579-bed complex on St Leonard’s Street by demolishing the current Homebase DIY store, Edinburgh University’s outline plans to create more student housing on Meadow Lane and Buccleuch Place and proposals to build around 187 student residences in a Causewayside printing ­office.

But some Southside residents fear the district is becoming a student “ghetto” and the sense of community was being diluted. The Leith Walk application comes days after a Scottish Government reporter overturned a decision to refuse a 237-bed development at Lutton Court.