Eyre Place Lane student flats row: Edinburgh needs more affordable housing and for local residents' voices to be heard – Miles Briggs

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The weekend before last I met with local residents at Eyre Place Lane to protest against a proposed student development on the old building yard.

The controversial plans to develop student accommodation there have been met with strong opposition by locals. Speaking with residents at the demonstration, the level of local feeling against this development was obvious. Of particular concern is the scale of the project, which residents do not feel is in keeping with the area.

I wrote to the minister for public finance, planning and community wealth, Tom Arthur, to highlight these concerns and support residents in their opposition to the development. This letter gained cross-party support from Scottish Conservative and Scottish Labour MSPs. The letter states that the concerns with the proposal include “the high density of student flats, leading to an overdevelopment of the site, loss of open space, potential noise and disturbance, loss of daylight and sunlight, impact on privacy, views and a reduction in car parking”. Local Scottish Conservative councillor Max Mitchell and SNP councillor Vicky Nicolson have both been vocal in their support of residents.

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There have also been questions raised by The Yard, located at 22 Eyre Place Lane, which cares for children with extreme medical needs. Celine Sinclair, The Yard’s chief executive, said: "We have grave concerns about the nature of this development and the sheer volume of people and traffic it will bring.” She went on to highlight worries about how the development would impact access for ambulances and other emergency vehicles, pointing out that “some of our children have complex medical needs and ambulances can be required to attend”.

Across Edinburgh, most housing applications seem to be for student accommodation. Whenever a new piece of land is made available, the first thing that comes to mind is that it will be used for this purpose. As we can see with the proposed development at Eyre Place Lane, more student accommodation is not always appropriate. I have previously called for a cap on the number of such developments in the Capital with Edinburgh Council failing to deliver enough affordable homes for people.

Housebuilding statistics this week showed that, in Scotland, the number of affordable homes approved has fallen to its lowest level in nearly a decade and the number of affordable homes where construction has started is on the slide. People are struggling to get on the property ladder or get into a rented home. There’s a whole, hidden group of people still living at home with parents who feel they don’t stand a chance.

I constantly hear from people across the city, frustrated and fed up that they can’t get a home. The council doesn't seem to have a tangible strategy for striking a balance, and affordable homes desperately need to be given priority.

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What is most concerning is that local residents do not feel that they are being listened to. The size and scale of the proposed new student accommodation would clearly not be appropriate for the area. Decision-makers cannot simply ignore the concerns of local residents because it does not suit their agenda. It’s time for the views of residents to be listened to – it’s their community after all.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian

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