Edinburgh housing: Plans for 20 new holiday flats in former New Town language school approved
and live on Freeview channel 276
Edinburgh Council has waved through plans for 20 new Airbnb-style holiday flats in the city centre, despite a pledge to limit the number of short-term lets in the capital.
Councillors granted permission to convert a former New Town language school into tourist accommodation at a meeting on Wednesday (January 11) – without having any debate about the proposals first. The planning sub-committee approved change of use of the two adjoined townhouses on Albyn Place, which was occupied by Kaplan International Languages until the school moved into a new building at St Andrew Square last year. The former classrooms and offices are set to be turned into a block of short-term lets (STLs), the proliferation of which are often blamed in-part for the city’s housing shortage.
Edinburgh City Council’s Labour group, which runs the authority as a minority administration, promised in its 2022 manifesto to “limit the numbers of short-term lets”. New powers allow the council to refuse holiday let applications in cases where there would be loss of existing housing or neighbours could be disturbed. However, neither policies were relevant to the Albyn Place application.
Officials said the plans would “preserve the special architectural and historic interest” of the listed Georgian building. But the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland took a different view, and said in an objection sent to the council the proposals “constitute over-development”. The letter added: “The council’s guidance is clear that there should notbe more than one flat per floor in a townhouse conversion. A lighter touch would have less impact on the fabric of the building. We believe that the proposals would result in unnecessary damage to the listed building.”
And residents also opposed the scheme, questioning how the plans matched up with the authority’s pledge to crack down on STLs. One said: “This proposal flies in the face of the city council’s stated aim of reducing the extent of tourist accommodation in the city centre. This is a quiet residential neighbourhood where buildings back onto a square which accommodates Wemyss Place Mews. The proposal, with rear access to two of the units and, in effect, 24 hour access to car parking will result in an enormous increase in noise, which is funnelled upwards and magnified by surrounding buildings.”
Another added: “I find it hard to understand why this application is being made, considering the Council’s purported objection to so many Airbnbs, and this proposal for short term lets is the same except in name.”