Planning permission granted for student development on former Tynecastle High School site
A Scottish Government Reporter has granted planning permission for a planning application by S1 Developments for a new student residential development at Edinburgh’s former Tynecastle High School site.
Despite council planners recommending the application be granted subject to conditions, the City of Edinburgh Council voted down the planned redevelopment in September last year, citing community concerns and opposition to the development as a prominent reason for their decision.
However, the decision has now been overturned by the Reporter.
In addition to 468 bed spaces, the original school hall will be repurposed as a central amenity hub, sitting within a collegiate-style courtyard space and providing shared facilities for student residents.
Landscaping proposals increase green space across the site by more than 40%, helping to increase biodiversity within the local area.
The development has been designed to be highly sustainable with zero parking, 100% cycle parking, the employment of low carbon technologies and no use of fossil fuels.
In his report, the Reporter noted that the “development of the site for mainstream housing would be constrained by the presence of the listed buildings”, making student development a more viable option.
In addition, he identified the site which is dominated by the football ground and North British Distillery, as being more suitable for students “who would only spend part of their year in residence” and then only for the length of their University or college courses.
The Reporter also noted the proximity of universities and colleges to the site and that the student population in the local area, including the proposed development would be approximately 24% and therefore not lead to an overly concentrated student population in the area.
He notes that this figure is well below the 50% given to demonstrate the excessive concentration of students and in his view would not lead to an “imbalanced community”.
S1 Developments said the student development will regenerate a site that has lain vacant for over a decade and fallen into a state of disrepair. The careful restoration of the original Category B-listed school building, designed by John Alexander Carfrae, forms an integral part of the proposals. The development will far exceed amenity standards for similar student developments and has sustainability at its heart.
Guidance from the City of Edinburgh Council points to the benefits of purpose-built student accommodation in freeing up traditional housing stock for families with children and it has been estimated that a development such as this could release up to 180 properties back into the housing market. Local businesses will also benefit through increased spending from student residents.
Charity People Know How will act as preferred operators for community facilities on the site. This which already works with Tynecastle High School, will operate a community facility within the building.
People Know How will operate a community facility, with the option for other local community groups to use space. The charity supports children, young people and their families in Edinburgh transition from primary to high school; helps individuals access the digital world and assists communities to shape their areas through community consultation and empowerment.
A large number of students volunteer to work with the charity, and this enables a positive relationship with students in the building to be established. Not only does this support the charity in its work, but also benefits the volunteers and engages them in the local area.
Dan Teague, director at S1 Developments, said: “We’re delighted to have received planning permission for this exciting development.
“The original school building has fallen into a sorry state since it ceased being a school over a decade ago. Whilst the redevelopment is challenging, our proposed use brings with it an opportunity to save and renovate the original school building and continue its educational use, benefitting the local community.
“The Reporter also noted that this was a site more suitable for student housing than mainstream housing due to the constraints of the football stadium and North British Distillery.
“We look forward to working constructively with the community in delivering this development.”
The decision has been met with an angry reaction from the councillors and community groups opposed to the development.
Members of tenants’ union Living Rent have been campaigning against the development since its proposal, saying that the unaffordable student accommodation does not reflect the needs of the community. They point out that the level of student accommodation in Gorgie is already high and that the community really needs more social and actually affordable housing. They also pointed out that it would have been irresponsible to house over 400 students on a site deemed unsuitable for mainstream housing due to noise levels from the nearby distillery.
Living Rent stresses that they are not ‘anti-student’ and point out that PBSA (purpose-built student accommodation) is often expensive and out-of-reach for many students. They argue that competition for rental properties is high, and that PBSA occupies space that could be used for social housing for all the community and community space. PBSAs also offer students regressive tenancy terms in comparison to the private residential sector, making it difficult for students to end or extend their tenancy.
Olly Brown chair of Gorgie/Dalry Living Rent branch says of the development: “It is completely undemocratic to ignore the decision at the council sub-committee level and the community. As a branch we have been campaigning against this development for years and it is so clear that public sentiment against it is really strong. Gorgie needs better options - for students and other local residents. We need to prioritise actually affordable housing over expensive PBSA.”