Residents’ ‘dread’ as student flats bid approved

RESIDENTS have told of their “dread” after the £2.9 million sale of a site earmarked for student accommodation was given the green light.

Saturday, 21st March 2015, 11:33 am
The Potterrow site. Picture: Greg Macvean

The transaction will see an area of land at Potterrow sold off to Macdonald Estates, which wants to build a 52-room student housing complex.

Approval came after 20 initial offers were narrowed down to a shortlist of six, with Macdonald emerging as preferred bidder.

But the deal has come under attack from critics who said it featured only developers offering university accommodation.

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They said they were “sickened” to hear the sale had been authorised and called for new rules compelling firms to provide affordable housing.

Ted Thomson, 56, a resident of nearby Buccleuch Street and member of the Save Buccleuch Street and Meadow Lane Edinburgh campaign group, said: “I feel dread – it makes me feel sick.

“We’re swamped – we can’t get moving for students. We can’t get to sleep at night [with] the noise and parties.

“I have people shouting and fighting in the street outside at three, four, and even five o’clock in the morning. You have people coming and urinating round the back of the car park where I live. I think there needs to be a cap.”

Marco Biagi, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central, said the Potterrow shortlist was huge cause for concern.

He said: “If private student developers are able to outbid all other forms of development every single time, then most people would think the market is broken.

“There is a pressing demand for affordable housing in the area. Rip-off private student accommodation units are a raw deal for students as well as long-term residents, and they do nothing to take the pressure off high rents in the Southside.”

In recent months, the south of Edinburgh has been flooded with student housing applications. These include Unite Students’ bid to build a 579-bed complex on St Leonard’s Street and Edinburgh University’s outline plans to create more housing on Meadow Lane and Buccleuch Place.

Proposals have also been lodged to build around 187 residences in a Causewayside printing office.

City leaders stressed they had already begun a fresh consultation on student housing guidelines, the results of which would be reported in due course.

Councillor Ian Perry, planning leader, said: “In order to avoid an excessive concentration of student accommodation in any one area, current planning guidance collates census data and relevant development monitoring information. This baseline is used to assess how new student housing proposals will impact on the area by assessing the potential increase in students as a percentage of the local population.”

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, finance leader, said the council would always strive to ensure “best value” in any property deal.