Comment: Developer is not picking on students

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Seeing student union leaders fight for their members’ right to own a car and park it near their university digs will certainly raise eyebrows.

It may not be a civil rights issue or a rent strike like those that excercised students in the 1960s, but the protest from the National Union of Students against plans for “car-free” student accommodation are nevertheless borne out of a feeling of injustice.

Their logic is that students are being picked on because a similar restriction would not be placed on similar accommodation for the wider community. That, however, is simply untrue. The award-winning 
car-free housing estate built by Canmore at Slateford Green 15 years ago is proof that this kind of development is not restricted only to students.

The main reason for proposing a car-free development is clearly a means to get around local objections to more flats being built in an already heavily populated area. The strain that extra traffic will put on local roads, and the loss of parking space, are usually among the main reasons for objections.

So it is perfectly natural for developers to look at ways of getting round those objections – and there is nothing wrong with that at all. It might also be described as trying to be a good neighbour.

Living in car-free flats will appeal to some people because of their environmental beliefs or because they feel it will make for a more pleasant neighbourhood.

For most of the students who might live in this proposed accommodation off Easter Road they will just be grateful to find decent digs in Edinburgh, presumably at an affordable rent.

The shortage of student accommodation in the Capital has been pushing up the cost of renting in and around the city centre for both students and non-students alike. Flats like these will only ease the pressure and help bring those prices down for everyone.

For that reason, the NUS, and the rest of us, should welcome plans like these.