Edinburgh housing: Cockburn Association backs Tynecastle student flats plans but calls for no more in area

An Edinburgh heritage watchdog has backed a “reasonable” proposal for student flats in a former school building – but has said no more should be considered in the area.

Heritage chiefs welcomed plans for 468 student flats at the former Tynecastle High site which would regenerate the original Category B-listed school building that has been vacant for more than a decade and fallen into a state of disrepair.
Heritage chiefs welcomed plans for 468 student flats at the former Tynecastle High site which would regenerate the original Category B-listed school building that has been vacant for more than a decade and fallen into a state of disrepair.

Heritage chiefs welcomed plans for 468 student flats at the former Tynecastle High site which would regenerate the original Category B-listed school building that has been vacant for more than a decade and fallen into a state of disrepair.

The Cockburn Association said plans for student flats were viable but called for no further student accommodation to be proposed for the area if the Tynecastle plans get the go-ahead. Bosses also said claims by developers that the plans would free up 170 flats for families were ‘suspect’.

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It follows a long-running campaign opposing more purpose built student housing (PBSA) in Gorgie and Sighthill.

Edinburgh’s heritage watchdog said it will not object to the plans and called for a “pragmatic” decision to be made, stating that mainstream housing applications for the site have previously been unsuccessful.

Environmental protection officers have recommended the application be refused, saying the site is not suitable for any form of residential-led development whilst the distillery is still operational.

A council report which was “accidentally buried” last month cast doubt over a developer’s claim that the derelict site is better suited for student flats than social housing.

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‘Accidentally buried’ report casts doubt over Tynecastle student homes claims

But S1 Developments, behind the bid, has said constraints of noise coming from the nearby North British Distillery (NBD) mean the “requisite level of amenity” can’t be met for residential homes on the McLeod Street site.

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Developers argue building student flats instead allows them to mitigate the site constraints by including large outdoor and indoor communal areas.

Director of the Cockburn Association Terry Levinthal said: “We welcome that the proposals retain the school building and others, including janitor’s house.

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"Student accommodation plans are reasonable here and there is a lot to commend in the plans. I think pragmatism is needed considering the failed attempts at mainstream developments in the past for the site. We won’t object though we do note the wider issue of the concentration of students in the area. If this development goes ahead, no further proposals for student accommodation should go ahead.

"Students can bring vitality to areas but a balance is needed to mitigate impact on the local community.”

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"However, the claim that it will serve to free up the equivalent of 170 homes is suspect. It’s highly unlikely that flats will go back into the mainstream market and become available for families. Owners will likely shift the properties to short-term lets.”

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Ashley Graczyk Former Sighthill/Gorgie Councillor & Founder of Housing Activism said student housing is “out of control”.

She said: “We are reaching saturation point with purpose-built student accommodation units here in Gorgie-Dalry. Around 93 per cent of planning applications are for student-only accommodation.

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“Many local residents are angry about being priced out of their home area while hundreds of student units are being built and scarcely any affordable homes.

“Students also do not pay Council Tax, so this increased population puts a strain on essential services in the local area such as bin collections and health services without the corresponding increase in revenue.

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“The situation is now spiralling completely out of control and the council need to get a handle on this and prioritise more affordable homes for families, single households, couples, students and families."

The planning application goes to a Council hearing on Wednesday, 21 September.