Green light for Canongate student development

The council thought it was ‘a poorly thought out design’; the reporter said it was “effective”

Summix (CGE) Developments and S Harrison Developments have been granted permission for the partial demolition of existing buildings and the construction of purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) on a site that was once part of the 19th century gas works at 179A Canongate.

The planning application was initially refused by the City of Edinburgh Council in August 2022.

The scheme consists of 76 studio rooms, and will be aimed at postgraduate students. Elements of the existing historic buildings are incorporated into the proposed redevelopment along with the demolition of newer 20th century buildings.

“The preserved buildings are incorporated into a sympathetic design which respects the historic location of the site and the important surrounding listed buildings,” the developers said.

Newly constructed elements consist of a five-storey building with a triple pitched roof on the west side which descends to a two-storey building with a duo-roof on the east side to match the nearby cemetery. Historic border walls will be retained.

Edinburgh council planning officers said: “This is a poorly conceived design proposal, which does not respond to the prevailing urban character and historic grain of this part of the Old Town. It has not been demonstrated that the proposal will create or contribute to a sense of place, with an overall design concept that draws on the characteristics of the surrounding area.

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“The proposal would represent a poor quality and inappropriate infill design, which would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the Old Town Conservation Area and the outstanding universal value of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.”

They said that “demolition of the existing structures would undermine the unique qualities of this historic environment”.

However, the ‘reporter’ appointed by the Scottish Government minister to review the appeal said: “The proposed development utilizes a brownfield site which makes efficient use of existing land and buildings. It supports the provision of accessible accommodation and is conveniently located within walking distance of educational facilities, local amenities and public transport. The scale, form and design respect the historic environment, and mitigation measures have been incorporated to ensure the amenity of existing and future occupiers.”

S Harrison director David Clancy said: “These proposals will regenerate an unloved site in the heart of the capital and provide much-needed PBSA in a highly sustainable location, which is so close to many university buildings. We are pleased to see that the reporter noted that the proposed PBSA does not result in an “excessive concentration” of student housing in the area and will fit in with the nearby listed buildings, preserving the character and appearance of the Old Town conservation area.

“Our proposals are part of the wider redevelopment of this part of the town center and will help bring life and economic activity to the area.”

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