Housing Activism initiative puts our residents first - Ashley Graczyk
Disappointingly I have received a recent Proposal of Application Notice (21/00988/PAN) for student development at the former Tynecastle High school site.
The City of Edinburgh Council sold this site a few years ago to the North British Distillery but their planning application was refused. It is the council’s understanding that the site is stilled owed by them but is under offer to Teague Homes, and that the offer is likely to be subject to planning consent.
To highlight the impact of recent planning issues in my ward, out of 17 wards in Edinburgh, Sighthill/Gorgie has the fourth highest student beds, a total number of 1460 so far - all mostly based in Gorgie, Dalry and Westfield area.
Unfortunately, more planning proposals are likely because our area is being relentlessly targeted by PBSA developers when we desperately need more affordable housing.
I have lost count of the amount of times local residents tell me they cannot afford the inflation-busting, private rent or are priced out of a mortgage, and some are even being priced out of the area they have been brought up in or consider as home.
Another unfortunate reality is these private PBSA developers are not interested in providing the housing our city needs because they are driven by profit margins, not public service so, they push to build PBSA ad infinitum – even when they know everyone else in the community with housing needs is being excluded, including students who are married and/or have children.
The new Housing Activism initiative was launched because Edinburgh desperately needs more affordable housing and we are concerned that these private PBSA developments are being prioritised over sustainable, genuinely affordable accommodation, which could be open to both students and non-students. We believe students also need and desire affordable, habitable, rent-controlled housing.
The local Gorgie Dalry community have put a lot of time and immense effort into challenging private PBSA planning proposals, including Scotmid Gorgie Road and Richmond Terrace, which was withdrawn after strong community opposition.
But the local community also knows that all the developers need to do is make tiny tweaks to their planning proposals and appeal should local councillors vote their proposals down, and the fight starts all over again, including submitting comments on the planning portal despite having already done so.
Or if the appeal fails, sometimes developers appeal to the Scottish Government Minister who doesn’t represent or live in Edinburgh) or to a Special Reporter with zero accountability to the electorate, who sometimes decides to ignore the democratic vote of elected councillors.
We have no Equal Rights of Appeal or any new community empowerment in the planning process. This urgently needs to change in the next parliament.
Cllr Ashley Graczyk is an independent councillor for the Sighthill/Gorgie ward and independent MSP candidate for Lothian Region