The Scottish Government’s planning reporter has granted permission to UNITE Group PLC for the development of student accommodation at the Homebase site on St Leonard’s Street, Edinburgh.
The appeal follows a decision by the City of Edinburgh Council to refuse the application earlier this year.
Assessing the application, the reporter judged that as the site was ‘adjacent’ to the university campus and that, although it would increase the proportion of students in the local population, it would not lead to a loss of family housing. You can read the full decision here.
The decision is the latest demonstration of the shortcomings of the Council’s existing policy on student accommodation, based on the appropriateness of the location and ambition to limit excessive concentration of student housing in local communities. I recently contributed to a council consultation on the issue which details my concerns around the issue.
In an attempt to support retention of the current Homebase store on the site following a meeting with local residents I wrote to the company. In response, Homebase stated that while they were keen to remain at the site, the landlord had made clear its intention to develop the site. As a result, there was no prospect of the store’s lease being extended beyond the end of July.
This is a disappointing outcome and I will be continuing to lobby the Council to improve planning guidance. We need to strike the right balance between supporting the growth of our universities while preserving cohesive and sustainable communities.
We particularly need new housing developments to address the city’s affordable housing crisis. I will be meeting with the new President of Edinburgh University Students Association as I also have concerns about the affordability of new purpose built student housing and would be interested in seeing more cooperative housing options being pursued.