Edinburgh student accommodation: Residents battling Eyre Place plans hope to get council hearing this time
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Residents battling to stop a developer’s second attempt to build a large student accommodation block on their doorstep are pressing for councillors to hold a hearing into the plans.
Nearly 300 objections to the latest proposals have been submitted in the three weeks since the plans were announced and more are expected ahead of the deadline for comments on Friday, October 6.
The original application for 142 student flats at Canonmills was due to go to a hearing by the city council’s development management sub-committee, but developers CA Ventures stymied the move by appealing to the Scottish Government, taking the decision on the plans out of the hands of the council.
Although the appeal was unsuccessful and the government planning reporter refused the scheme in June, CA waited just three months before lodging a new application for the site at Eyre Place and Eyre Place Lane, with what residents say are minimal changes. The number of flats has been reduced to 139 and an associated proposal for town houses has been cut from from nine units to seven. The height of the student block has been reduced, but with the building now extending further up the lane, and the plans include two outdoor roof terraces. Residents say the block will still reduce sunlight and overshadow the communal garden. And they say noise nuisance from the roof terraces is inevitable.
Mother-of-three Hannah Edwards said: “They’re trying to cram a massive commercial building into a really tight space. Most of the ‘social space’ in the development is outdoors, so obviously there’s going to be noise. Our big worry is the negative impact it’s going to have on existing residents, given how close and how big it is.”
She said the residents had been shocked the last time when council planning officials recommended approval of the application and were pleased when councillors agreed to hold a hearing rather than rubber stamp the plans, but were then frustrated to be denied their chance to have their say when the developer appealed to the government. “There is a big appetite for a hearing this time, given what happened before. Hopefully they’re not going to try and pull the same thing twice."
MPs, MSPs and councillors have backed the residents. Inverleith Conservative councillor Max Mitchell said: “This application is new in name only. It is clear as day that the very minor tweaks to the plans have been made in the hope it can just about conform to policy and survive the council’s decision or any potential appeal. Residents neighbouring the site deserve better than this. Given the clear problems with the last application, the council needs to ensure a full hearing is held and allow the community to explore the issues fully in public before a decision is made.”
Lothian Labour MSP Foysol Choudhury said he shared the residents’ concern that there had been no proper community engagement. “They campaigned very hard to stop the last application and they are worried the latest proposal may even have a more negative impact than the previous design. I have seen for myself what a crowded area it is and how narrow the lane is.”
And Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “The community feel that they are again having to fight to make their voice heard. It’s disappointing we’re back to this again, but it’s really important the community do get the chance to make their views known and a proper hearing takes place. It seems to be a regular pattern now for developers to see what they can get away with – our planning system seems to be stacked against communities at the minute. There is anger that, having been rejected, there were just some tiny tweaks to the plan and it’s back. The community has never been against development – they just want to be included in what that’s going to look like and make sure it’s appropriate.”
Agents for CA Ventures were approached for comment.