Councillors halt student flats plan for listed building site

Hendry and Macdonald garage at 20 Duncan Street which has been saved from being turned into student flats. Picture: Greg Macvean
Hendry and Macdonald garage at 20 Duncan Street which has been saved from being turned into student flats. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Councillors have halted proposals to turn a repairs garage into studio flats for students after developers were accused of “carving up” a listed building.

KED Properties applied to turn the Hendry and Macdonald car repairs garage on Duncan Street, Edinburgh, into 25 self-contained student studio flats, as well as a communal area in a central atrium. Most of the flats would offer 22 square metres of floor space and include a “small kitchenette”.

Council officers had recommended that permission for the development and listed building consent be granted – but members of the city council’s Development Management Sub-Committee rejected the plans.

Councillors heard that the proposals included a “small outdoor courtyard area” and there would be “substantial alteration” to the listed building, particularly to the roof where a skylight would be installed.

Officers also pointed out that seven of the 25 studios did not meet requirements over daylight – but that glazed doors to each room would add additional light. Cllr Jo Mowat said: “I have massive scepticism about this being in any way, shape or form somewhere that people would actually want to live.

“This seems to me a really interesting concept but the practicalities and the amenity of the people living there could be severely reduced. I’m not sure how practical this is.”

Councillors raised fears over noise, the lack of “adequate cycle parking” and the impact that waste collections could have on traffic. The communal area also offered only eight seats for the 25 occupants.

Convener of the committee, Cllr Neil Gardiner, said: “The outdoor space that is being provided might end up being a sort of smokers’ space and it’s onto a back green of a residential tenement.”

Cllr Hal Osler added: “I don’t really feel that any student within this accommodation is going to be benefiting from the accommodation. I also don’t feel that it actually constitutes a good use of the building.”

Cllr Alex Staniforth echoed concerns about the use of a listed building, saying he was worried “we are giving up the internal open plan nature of the building which is integral to what it’s historic use was”.

“I share the concerns about the reuse of the listed building,” Cllr Mowat said as the committee refused approval.