The city council’s development management sub-committee voted six to four in favour of Lateral City Limited’s plans to transform 329 High Street, next to the Real Mary King’s Close, and formerly part of City Chambers, into 24 serviced apartments.
Officers told councillors that residential use of the building was initially considered but “in this case, it’s not suitable”. Converting the A-listed building for housing would require “altering window heights or raising floor heights significantly”.
Officers added: “In this case we are in the heart of the Old Town which has a large tourist and transient population. It’s a busy area already.
“We would resist any further division of the City Chambers as it would get to the stage it would harm the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site.”
Unlike short-term let apartments that are unregulated and take away housing stock in tenement blocks in the Old Town, the 329 High Street proposals would lead to disused offices becoming fully managed apartments that meet planning regulations.
Cllr Hal Osler pointed out that six cycle spaces to be provided by the developers are proposed for a public space and will require further permission. They will also be available for use by any member of the public.
The building, which dates from the 18th century, will be turned into an extension for the Old Town Chambers apartments – with the reception room relocating to the High Street. Retail, restaurant and bar space would be provided at ground floor, mezzanine and basement levels.
Before the building was closed by the council, it provided the career transition service, through care and after care for communities and families departments, was home to the Leith and
City Centre Neigbourhood Team and was used by young persons services.
Council reports indicate a long lease “allows the council to retain ownership and control over future use”.
Planning convener, Cllr Neil Gardiner, formally called for the application to be approved.
He said: “There’s no policy towards housing in this regard. It would be difficult to convert it to housing in this event. I wish to move it.”
But Cllr Osler instead wanted the proposals to be rejected by the committee.
She said: “I’m extremely uncomfortable due to the fact this is something attached to ourselves we are allowing to happen.
“I do think there’s a detrimental impact on the surrounding housing.”
Cllr Chas Booth also oposed the plans due to the provision of cycle storage.
He added: “I’m not convinced this complies with our policy on cycle parking.”