Edinburgh student accommodation plans: Campaigning mum catches developers out over sunlight claims
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A mother-of-three battling to save her tenement block from being overshadowed by new student housing has uncovered a major error in the case presented by the developers.
Now Hannah Edwards is calling for a crucial sunlight study to be redone by independent experts after CA Ventures, the company proposing the student accommodation at Eyre Place, Canonmills, admitted they had disregarded two existing buildings when calculating how much light would reach the tenements if the six-storey student block was given the go-ahead. It means the figures they submitted to planners under-estimated the impact of the proposed building on the light currently enjoyed by residents.
Ms Edwards said: “The figures they presented claimed two windows would actually enjoy more sunlight if the student block was built and I just couldn't see how that was possible. They have now admitted they removed these two buildings and created a big false gap for daylight to come through. That will have had a big impact on the results in favour of the developer. They have re-run the calculations on the two windows which I highlighted as particularly unbelievable, but the results for the other windows will be inaccurate too.”
She said she had contacted the Building Research Establishment (BRE), which sets the standards for sunlight and other construction criteria, about various concerns she had over the developers’ claims and calculations. “They agreed some of the figures looked a bit off.” Now she wants the full sunlight study to be re-run by BRE as independent experts to make sure there is an accurate picture of what the development would mean.
"I have lost all trust in the developer,” she said. “My husband and I both work in the finance sector and there are such stringent regulations around documentation – there can’t be anything that would be misinterpreted. Here, we’re talking about people's homes, yet they can get away with this sort of thing. If I hadn't challenged their figures no-one would have realised. You wonder how many other developments there have been where people haven't picked up on similar things.”
The proposal for 142 student flats at the former Jewson’s builders’ yard at 72-74 Eyre Place attracted 398 objections and councillors on the planning sub-committee agreed unanimously to hold a hearing on the application despite officials recommending it should be granted. But before the hearing could take place, the developers appealed, meaning the decision on the development will now not be taken by the council but by a Scottish Government reporter – a lawyer specialising in planning cases.
Residents say the proposed student flats would be “overbearing”, look straight into flats opposite and put their communal garden into shadow. They also say the new accommodation would be the fourth student housing development within a one-mile radius and argue the site is more suitable for affordable homes. They have won support from local MSPs and councillors.
Ms Edwards submitted a dossier detailing her concerns about the sunlight calculations and other matters to the Scottish Government reporter. In their response the developers said: “The calculations were completed using the buildings highlighted in orange as existing (potentially to be demolished buildings) therefore these were not included in the proposed calculations. We have since found out these buildings form part of the ‘surrounding’ site and will remain in situ when the proposed development is introduced.” CA Ventures were contacted for comment.