Plans for student housing on flood prone site to be put before Scottish Government Ministers

The development has been objected to by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, but Edinburgh City Council has voted in its favour.

Edinburgh-based property group Kiltane Developments are hoping to redevelop the 0.52-hectare site at 535-555 Gorgie Road.
Edinburgh-based property group Kiltane Developments are hoping to redevelop the 0.52-hectare site at 535-555 Gorgie Road.

Plans for a new mixed-use development comprising student accommodation, commercial units and residential flats on Gorgie Road have been approved by Edinburgh City Council.

But plans for the development will now need to be put before Scottish Ministers because of an objection raised by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

SEPA are concerned about the development being built within a flood plain.

An impression of the development.

However, council planning officials believe appropriate flood-mitigating mechanisms have been built into design plans.

In the past Scottish Ministers have approved developments despite SEPA objections.

Edinburgh-based property group Kiltane Developments are hoping to redevelop the 0.52-hectare site at 535-555 Gorgie Road.

Currently, the mixed-use urban site is used for commercial and student accommodation purposes.

Kiltane Developments are looking to build 140 student flats, 77 student studios and 28 residential flats, eight of which would be classed as “affordable housing accommodation.”

Three commercial units will also be made available for retail, financial and professional services use.

Designs for the development include 2147 square metres of external amenity space, which will be provided in the form of a shared central courtyard, an area of amenity space adjacent to the Water of Leith and an external roof terrace to be accessed by those occupying student flats.

Residential units will have 285 square metres of external space and there will also be 442 square metres of internal amenity space for students.

The lower ground floor to the rear of what is currently ELS House will be retained as an undercroft, accommodating 33 car parking spaces and 28 electric vehicle charging spaces. There will also be 264 cycle parking spaces built.

At a meeting today, members of the council’s Development Management Sub-Committee were told that the development site almost certainly will flood. However, flooding will only affect the car park.

Council officers also confirmed the development has been specifically designed to protect residential accommodation half a level above the street from any future flooding at a lower level.

Green councillor Chas Booth and Liberal Democrat councillor Hal Osler moved to reject the development, but they were outnumbered by Labour, SNP and Conservative councillors voting in its favour.

Chas Booth, Green councillor for Leith, said: “This site is right next to the Water of Leith, and as we’ve heard from the council’s own experts, is almost certain to flood in the future. We know that climate change makes extreme weather events, including severe floods, much more likely.

"Building homes on this site would condemn future occupants to the distress and anxiety of having to mop up after a flood event, and it could make those homes uninsurable. The city should be building more affordable homes in areas that aren’t at risk of flooding, not putting them in the path of a likely future deluge.”

A spokesperson for Kiltane Developments, said: “I’m delighted with the decision taken today by councillors. As an Edinburgh-based company, we are thrilled to see this exciting project given the green light and look forward to bringing this mixed-use site forward.

“The delivery of housing, including much-needed affordable housing, student accommodation and commercial units will assist in preserving the viability of the nearby local centre. We are also providing an attractive frontage on the Water of Leith and significantly enhancing the public realm, including upgrades to the public footpath.

“We look forward to getting these proposals underway and will continue to work with council officials and the local community to deliver them.”