Canongate student housing plans withdrawn after criticism

Developers have axed plans to knock down a building on the Royal Mile and build a block of student flats after the proposals were blasted by officials.

Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 12:47 pm
The Canongate plans have been withdrawn. Picture: Google Maps

Officers had recommended that city councillors on the development management sub-committee should refuse planning permission to Summix Ltd for their Canongate scheme.

If approved, 91 student flats in a mix of clusters and studios would have been built in the six-storey block, together with a community space, student common areas, laundry facilities and 50 cycle parking spaces. There is provision for access but car parking is not provided on site.

The student accommodation is split into 86 studio apartments and five cluster flats. Although the developers have claimed the site is vacant, it is currently in use as the Old Tolbooth Market.

Officers said the plans “would not provide a sufficient mix of accommodation” and warned that “demolition of the existing structures will undermine the unique qualities of this historic environment”.

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They added: “This is a poorly conceived design proposal which fails to respond to the prevailing urban character and historic grain of this part of the Old Town. It has not been demonstrated that the proposal would create or contribute towards a sense of place, with an overall design concept that draws upon the characteristics of the surrounding area.

“The proposal would represent a poor quality and inappropriate infill design, which would be damaging to the character and appearance of the Old Town Conservation Area and the outstanding universal value of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site.”

But the company has now revealed the plans have been withdrawn following the assessment by planners.

A Summix spokesperson said: “Summix have withdrawn the application for 179 Canongate for a scheme of 91 student bedrooms.

“The project team look forward to further meaningful dialogue with City of Edinburgh Council and key heritage bodies, working together to bring forward an acceptable and viable scheme for this unique site.”

Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage have both opposed the proposals – as has the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard, the Old Town Association, Old Town Community Council and city centre ward Cllr Karen Doran. The proposals have tallied up 26 objections and 21 letters of support.

Stuart Black from Summix, had originally labelled the proposals “high-quality student accommodation” which he claimed would “regenerate this rather neglected part of the Old Town through careful re-development.”

He added: “Great attention has been taken to implement a design-led approach which delivers a final piece of the jigsaw in this World Heritage site and conservation area.

“The development also serves to address the increasing demand for student accommodation, fulfilling the ambitious growth plans of universities in the city, which are key drivers of the economy. It also serves to reduce pressure on the private housing market as well as delivering a substantial amount in additional expenditure into the local economy.”

Proposals illustrated that the main access to the site would remain as it currently is, from Canongate through Bowling Green Close and the existing archway into the site.

The development was set to be built next to the New Waverley development, currently under construction – with the site sitting between Old Tolbooth Wynd and the Canongate Kirk.

Developers claimed the student flats would bring significant economic and social benefits to this part of the Old Town and High Street, estimated to generate more than 60 jobs.