New safeguards for the Colonies

HISTORIC Colony communities across Edinburgh are to be given special protection to safeguard them against unsympathetic development.

Friday, 30th November 2012, 12:00 pm

New guidelines would come into force at the end of January should city planning leaders approve the proposed measures next week.

Nine of the ten Colony developments would be made conservation areas, which would limit the ability of owners to carry out work which would alter the celebrated character of the properties.

It would also make the building of either extensions, or new properties overshadowing the areas, much more

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At present, only half – Stockbridge, Pilrig, Rosebank, Dalry and Shandon – are afforded such protection. There are some examples in the other five where dormer windows in particular have been added to upper floors.

The Cockburn Association civic trust and council property experts said the buildings, which are highly sought-after, remain in good condition but that this move would ensure their future.

Residents from the Slateford Flower Colonies in particular have campaigned to safeguard their area from modern development since a failed bid by luxury house builder AMA to build 100 flats in 2010.

From January, buildings on Abbeyhill, Lochend, Slateford, and North Fort Street in Leith will be protected, with those at Leith Links pending further assessment.

Council chiefs held a public consultation earlier this year, with 76 per cent of respondents backing conservation protection.

David Leslie, acting head of planning at Edinburgh City Council, said both Colony residents and members of the public had taken a real interest in ensuring the areas are protected for the future.

He said: “This has been an interesting exercise indeed because it’s highlighted the uniqueness of these areas, and the commitment to ensure they are protected in the years to come.”

New permitted development planning rules introduced earlier this year have removed the need to seek planning permission for a range of minor measures – including introducing satellite dishes, decking and moderate extensions. The move has sparked concerns that many areas with attractive architecture will be subject to unchecked development.

The Victorian-era communities were built between 1850 and 1903 to ease crowding in the squalor of the Old Town and cater for workers who moved to Edinburgh to escape rural poverty.

Despite the support from many of the residents, there are still some concerned the changes will make any work to the properties difficult, and have submitted a petition to the new council petitions process calling for greater flexibility.

• HOMEOWNERS like to be able to make changes to their properties, so it’s very interesting that so many have recognised the greater public good of safeguarding these for the future. I have long tried to convince volume house builders that new colonies – like the project we are involved with at the Fort – are the perfect model for families in the city.

Given the economic situation and housing crisis, new thinking is needed and I hope that house builders will recognise the benefits of this model.