Edinburgh heritage chief claims ‘worrying’ trend of approved housing plans being scrapped for student accommodation

It’s claimed consent for homes is changing ‘almost immediately’ to student flats proposals.
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Heritage chiefs claim Edinburgh is seeing more approved housing plans being scrapped for student accommodation, after consent is already granted for mainstream homes.

The Cockburn Association claim it’s part of a ‘worrying’ shift as investors scrap approved plans for mainstream housing in favour of a more ‘lucrative’ PBSA market.

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Terry Levinthal, director of the Cockburn Association said: “We have noticed an emerging picture for housing consents to change almost immediately into PBSA proposals once approved. For example, at 27 Arthur Street, we objected to a change to student accommodation from the approved scheme of 33 apartments as we saw no reason why the approved development as it was could not be used to accommodate students, if such use is deemed accepted in this location. This would address a particular need for non-first year students who are looking for traditional flats to share with friends. It would also build in flexibility and resilience into the building, should there be a shift in the student housing market.

In Sighthill/Gorgie since 2010, planning permission for 2238 student beds has been granted compared with just 1218 residential homes.In Sighthill/Gorgie since 2010, planning permission for 2238 student beds has been granted compared with just 1218 residential homes.
In Sighthill/Gorgie since 2010, planning permission for 2238 student beds has been granted compared with just 1218 residential homes.

“Given the recently declared ‘housing crisis’ in the city, which we acknowledge includes student housing, the shift from approved mainstream housing to very specific and inflexible student bedsits is worrying. The cost of living crisis with high mortgage rates and frozen private rents for traditional landlord properties seems to be pushing investors away from mainstream housing to the more lucrative PBSA market. In the long run, within an already heavily pressurised market, this trend may not be in the interests of the city.”

It comes after the Evening News revealed that approved plans for homes on Willowbrae Road have been ‘flipped’, after developers put forward plans to build student accommodation instead.

Proposals for a “crescent-style” block of 48 flats on the corner of Northfield Drive and Willowbrae Road were given consent in September, four years after the former Radical Road Bar was demolished to make way for a housing project. But new proposals have been submitted by a property developer superseding consented plans for a mix of one, two and three bedroom flats with an application to build 138 student beds.

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One local MP said it ‘defies belief’ that a workable proposal to build homes would be swapped for student accommodation, while the city experiences a housing emergency. Days after Edinburgh became the first city in Scotland to declare a housing emergency, figures revealed that student accommodation makes up more than a quarter of all developments given permission in the Capital.

The council cited a severe shortage of social rented homes, spiralling private rental costs and record homelessness figures. Edinburgh council has been contacted for comment.