Edinburgh student flats: Controversial student housing development is delayed before final decision

An artist's impression of the proposed development in Eyre Place Lane.An artist's impression of the proposed development in Eyre Place Lane.
An artist's impression of the proposed development in Eyre Place Lane.
Proposals for Edinburgh’s Canonmills drew almost 400 objections

Residents and community groups fighting controversial plans to build more student flats in Edinburgh will get the chance to put their case to councillors before a decision is made

The bid for 142-studio flats on the “complex” site of a recently-demolished builders merchants in Canonmills has attracted nearly 400 objections from locals. They argue the plot on Eyre Place is “totally unsuited” to student accommodation, with fears the six-storey block would tower over neighbouring properties and block out sunlight. And councillors have stressed the need for more affordable housing to be delivered on on vacant land across the capital.

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Planning officials at the city council have backed the proposals, which were amended to include nine residential townhouses, and recommended councillors gave plans the green light. However, members of the planning sub-committee agreed unanimously on Wednesday (January 11) there should be a hearing for the applications, which will allow residents and the developers, CA Student Living/Novel Student, to address the committee before a final vote is held.

All four Inverleith councillors and Lothian MSP Foysol Choudhury also called for a hearing to allow the community’s voice to be heard. In total, the council received 398 objections and 25 statements of support.

Eyre Place Residents Special Interest Group said: “A building of this scale will have highly detrimental impacts on the residents of Canonmills”. The New Town and Broughton Community Council (NTBCC) said in its objection to planners: “NTBCC supports the principle of redevelopment on this site to provide residential accommodation including ‘affordable’ housing’. We remain unconvinced that the current proposal for the northern section of the wider site is a suitable or supportable location for student housing (PBSA). Furthermore, the proposed height, massing and proximity of the proposed development have an unacceptable impact on the amenity of existing residents.”

Committee convener, Lib Dem councillor Hal Osler, said it was “quite a complicated application” and added the council should “give the residents a chance to have a say as well as the applicants a chance to answer some questions about this site”. The SNP’s Neil Gardiner said: “Having been on the site visit with committee members it clearly is quite a complex site and the proposals are quite complex and it has raised a lot of issues locally.”

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Meanwhile the Conservatives’ Jo Mowat told councillors the plans “throw up a number of challenges that we’re going to have to face as a committee going forward about how we squeeze in developments into already developed areas”. And she added: “Given the number of people who have taken the opportunity to write in and state their concerns, there’s a lot of issues here to get through and I’d be happier if that was done via a hearing.”

Inverleith SNP councillor Vicky Nicholson said following the decision: “This is good news not only for local people, but for the whole city. For too long Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) has been approved on sites in residential areas, far enough from colleges and universities so they don’t meet the 20-minute neighbourhood standards. This is not a criticism of students, who bring so much to our city and are often exploited by student housing landlords. I hope that the hearing will bring an opportunity to explore fully why the development has been divided into two which allows the developers to proceed without any requirement to build social housing on the site.”

And MSP Foydsol Choudhury said he backed the residents’ objections and was delighted a hearing would be held. He said: “I was so disappointed the planning officers were recommending approval of the Eyre Place application. The hearing will give an opportunity for the concerns of the local residents and groups to be heard. I hope that following the Hearing, Councillors will reject the application.”