Edinburgh planning: Jock's Lodge student accommodation plans see councillor urge developers to reconsider
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Proposals currently out for public consultation would 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.
A new “community pub” will replace the current Limelite bar which will remain under the management of the existing owner who supports the plans.
But Councillor Danny Aston fears there is a problem with over provision of student flats changing the area in ‘major ways’ and has added his voice to calls to rethink the plans, amid a chronic shortage of affordable housing.
The SNP councillor for Craigentinny and Duddingston said questions need to be answered around whether a new building would fit in well with the historic character of the crossroads.
He also said the loss of the Willow pub would be a huge blow to the area.
It comes as a petition against the development topped more than 2400 signatures on Friday.
But developers Alumno have said that the proportion of students in the area after the accommodation is build will “still be significantly lower" than the proportions of full-time students living in areas such as Southside, the city centre, Morningside and Fountainbridge.
Alumno, part of the Places for People group which is one of the biggest housing associations in the UK, has held an online event for the public on the proposals and plans to hold a meeting next month after councillor Aston met with them to ‘forcefully’ put concerns to them about the plans.
Councillor Aston told the Evening News: "The number of purpose built student accommodation blocks that are flying up in this area, along the A1 between between Abbeyhill, Meadowbank and Jock’s Lodge, is incredible.
“I count seven either built recently, currently under construction, or with planning permission already, providing over 1600 student bedrooms.
“There is a chronic shortage of quality social and affordable housing in our city. Edinburgh is crying out for social and affordable homes and right now student accommodation developers are gobbling up many good sites for house building.”
He added: "I’m hugely proud that we have four fantastic universities in and around Edinburgh and I welcome the contribution that students make to the vitality of the city. But this level of
concentration is starting to change the character of the area in major ways.
"I am opposed to this and the it’s hard to see the aspects I’m opposed to being changed.
"People in the area are sick of seeing tacky, cheaply built student blocks being thrown up and getting no benefit for the wider community from these developments. I don’t doubt for a moment that the developer can fill these bedrooms and make profit from them – but the planning system exists to balance commercial interests with those of ordinary residents and the wider community.”
A consultation event will be held on September 6 at Willowbrae Parish Church.
A spokesperson for Alumno said: “If approved, the numbers of full-time students living in the Craigentinny/ Duddingston ward (in which the Jocks Lodge site sits) will only rise to 10.1 per cent of the resident population if all of the accommodation that is currently in use, has been approved, or is at application stage, is delivered.”
“The current proposal is for a 6-storey building with a step-up to 7 storeys towards the corner of London Road and Restalrig Road south.
“The proposed building height was established through pre-application consultation with City of Edinburgh Council Planning Department and is considered appropriate for its context.”
Statement from Star Pubs and Bars, Heineken UK:
“Prior to taking on a temporary management agreement for The Willow, the current operators were advised of the planned sale and of their limited tenure and opted to take it on that basis while the negotiations to redevelop the site were finalised. We will be liaising with the operators to find them an alternative pub to run should they be interested in taking this route. The Willow will continue to trade as normal in the meantime.
“Alumno’s plans are to create a new community local in place of the neighbouring Limelite, which will have the same ownership, providing continuity and a pub for the community to come together and socialise in.”
The plans and access to the consultation can be found on the website: www.jockslodgeplanning.co.uk.