No community imbalance from student accommodation

A major mixed-use scheme including 471 student flats, 53 affordable housing flats, 56-bed hotel, retail, community and commercial uses, was refused in Edinburgh mainly for harm to the appearance and character of the conservation area and the setting of a nearby listed building.

The council had an adopted policy on the provision of student accommodation, which they felt the proposal did not meet due to poor accessibility and the creation of an excessive imbalance of student accommodation in the locality. Whilst the reporter held walking distances to the university were significant, she felt that with promised improvements to cycle routes and the potential provision of an extended tram route, combined with the availability of good public transport facilities close by, accessibility criteria were met overall and there was no conflict with adopted local plan policy in this regard. 

The council had also refused the scheme on the basis of an over-concentration of student accommodation in the area when based on the requirements of their supplementary guidance on the issue. This required mixed use schemes to have at least a 50 per cent residential component, which the appeal proposal did not meet. But whilst the reporter acknowledged the supplementary guidance was a material consideration, she played greater store on the wording of the actual local plan policy which referred purely to the concentration of student accommodation in the locality. Based on available population statistics she noted that the student population was only 15-16 per cent in the area. The reporter concluded this level would not result in an over-concentration of students or result in excessive student accommodation in the area and there was therefore no conflict with the policy overal. 

Ultimately, however, although the reporter concluded the proposed mix of uses would be acceptable at the site, she found that the proposed replacement frontage building, at five storeys, to be of a height and scale which would have a harmful impact on the character and appearance of the conservation area and the setting of the listed building immediately opposite and dismissed the appeal. 

Reporter: Karen Black; Written representations


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