Edinburgh MP Tommy Sheppard slams plans for 'sardine tin' student flats at Jock's Lodge

An Edinburgh MP has slammed plans for ‘sardine tin’ student housing at Jock’s Lodge area and told developers their claims are ‘disingenuous’.

Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, has backed calls to scrap proposals to create 188 specialist student rooms set over seven storeys on the corner of

Restalrig Road South and London Road, where pub The Willow is currently located.

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It comes after Councillor Danny Aston added his voice to local opposition to the plans for the site, which are currently out for public consultation.

Tommy Sheppard said the location isn't suitable for student flats

Developers Alumno have said the proportion of students in the area after the accommodation is built will “still be significantly lower" than the proportions of full-time students living in other areas.

But Mr Sheppard echoes concerns about an over provision of student accommodation in the area and argues a wave of student accommodation is ‘hollowing out’ communities. It comes as a petition urging the council to reconsider the plans has topped 2,700 signatures.

Mr Sheppard said: “The lack of affordable housing in Edinburgh is one of the biggest social issues facing the city, and opportunities to build new quality social homes must be prioritised and maximised where possible.

“Our large student population brings enormous social, cultural and economic benefits to Edinburgh, however I don’t believe that Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) is the best solution to accommodate them. Even if I were to be convinced otherwise, this is not a suitable location for one.

Artists impression of plans for student flats at Jock's Lodge

“It’s completely disingenuous to suggest that there are a ‘relatively small’ number of these developments in the area - the 500 bed figure given by the developer only accounts for those currently in use. Within a one-mile radius from the proposed development at Jocks Lodge, there are already several PBSA’s already built, under construction, or with planning permission, which will accommodate over 1,600 students.

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"Adding an additional 200 bed development would exacerbate an existing over-concentration of student accommodation and significantly change the character of this area.

“With this wave of student accommodation has also come a hollowing out if the local community; it’s impossible for people to get to know their neighbours if they change every academic year.

"And yet, developers continue to throw up ‘sardine tin’ accommodations from which they can make huge profits, rather than build homes for families to avoid the legal obligation to provide a proportion of affordable homes. Sustainable communities need residents to be settled, not transient.”

A spokesperson for Alumno Group said: “Student numbers have grown by 21 per cent in Edinburgh in the past six years and there is clear evidence that further Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) is needed within the city.

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“Edinburgh’s universities and colleges are key drivers of the economy. By providing PBSA this frees up houses for families, which students would ordinarily be occupying.

“Students are currently heavily concentrated in a few parts of the city with more than half living in just three wards, Southside/Newington, City Centre and Meadows/Morningside.

“Even if all the student accommodation proposed is built - and including existing halls and those living in private rented accommodation - the total number of full-time students living

in the ward would rise to just 10.1 per cent of the resident population, a level which is significantly lower than in other parts of the city.”