Edinburgh housing: Charity HQ on conservation crescent set for redevelopment into student flats

The building will be demolished to make way for student flats, along with a cinema and gym.
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Plans have been submitted to redevelop the site of a charity’s former HQ in Bruntsfield into student accommodation.

National charity Sight Scotland and property developer, S Harrison Developments, have jointly submitted the plans which if approved will see the vacant building on Gillespie Crescent demolished to make way for purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) with a cinema and gym.

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It comes after new figures revealed that student accommodation makes up more than a quarter of all developments given permission in Edinburgh.

The site on Gillespie CrescentThe site on Gillespie Crescent
The site on Gillespie Crescent

Jmarchitects have developed detailed proposals for the site, which requires the demolition of an unlisted two storey stone structure within the Marchmont, Meadows and Bruntsfield Conservation Area.

Proposals include demolition of the existing building and erection of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) and amenity space, landscaping and infrastructure.

A total of 145 bedrooms are proposed, with facilities including a cinema ‘multimedia room’, gym. and cycle parking provision.

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Sight Scotland occupied the building for nearly a century and continue to repair and maintain it, after vacating the historic building early in 2021 as it was no longer ‘fit for purpose’.

CGI images of the proposed student accommodationCGI images of the proposed student accommodation
CGI images of the proposed student accommodation

Staff were relocated to offices in Gorgie. The charity said the sale of the building will allow it to expand its services and ability to fund medical research to tackle the root causes of sight loss.

Developers S Harrison said the plans makes ‘best use of the site’ and will deliver a well-designed, sustainable development, including green roofs, solar panels, air source heat pumps, a rain garden and permeable paving.

A shared, publicly accessible green space will provide an area in front of the building for people to walk, sit and rest, while existing trees will also be retained.

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It’s claimed the development will serve to address a well-recognised shortfall in student accommodation in the city, with a student homelessness crisis recognised by the Council in June 2023.

A spokesperson for S Harrison Developments said: “We are in a housing crisis, with a need for all types of housing. Demand for student accommodation greatly outstrips supply, and this is placing significant pressure on traditional family housing stock, with students occupying homes that would in many cases have previously been occupied by families.

“This proposed development on a brownfield site, if approved, will respond to this increasing demand, housing students in a central location with easy access by active travel and public transport to universities and delivering significant investment into the local community.”

Davina Shiell, Director of Marketing, Communications and Engagement for Sight Scotland said:

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“The funds released by the sale of the site, if consented, will enable us to further expand our reach, and support even more people living with visual impairments within existing services such as the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh.

“It will also allow us to provide new future services for the city, as well as expanding our ability to fund medical research to tackle the root causes of sight loss.”

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