Edinburgh Desperately Needs More Affordable Housing
Disappointedly, I have received a recent Proposal of Application Notice (21/00988/PAN) for student development at the former Tynecastle High school site:
“A Proposal of Application Notice and Location Plan providing advance notice of the intention of the Applicant “Tynecastle Teague Limited” to submit a Planning Application for the Proposed redevelopment of the former Tynecastle High School site, incorporating partial demolition and change of use of the school buildings and new build to form student residential development with associated infrastructure, landscaping, access and parking.”
The City of Edinburgh Council sold this site a few years ago to the North British Distillery but their planning application was refused. It is the Council’s understanding that the site is stilled owed by them but is under offer to Teague Homes, and that the offer is likely to be subject to planning consent.
To highlight the impact of recent planning issues in my ward, Sighthill/Gorgie. Out of 17 wards in Edinburgh, Sighthill/Gorgie has the 4th highest student beds, a total number of 1,460 so far – all mostly based in Gorgie, Dalry and Westfield area. Now we have this PAN proposal for yet more student accommodation on this huge, 1.6 hectares area – a hectare is equal in size to about two rugby pitches. To put this into perspective, another site just a 11 minute walk away at 24 Westfield Road, is a 394 purpose build student accommodation (PBSA) currently being built, covers 0.31 hectares.
Unfortunately, there is likely to be more planning proposals forthcoming because our area being relentlessly targeted by PBSA developers when we desperately need more affordable housing. I have lost count of the amount of times local residents tell me they cannot afford the inflation-busting, private rent, or are priced out of mortgage, and some are even being priced out of the area they have been brought up in or consider as their home.
Another unfortunate reality is that these private PBSA developers are not interested in providing the housing our capital City really needs because they are driven by profit margins, not public service; and so, they want to push to build PBSA ad infinitum – even when they know everyone else in the community with housing needs are being excluded, including students who are married and/or have children.
The new Housing Activism initiative was launched because Edinburgh desperately needs more affordable housing and we are concerned that these private PBSA developments are being prioritised over sustainable, genuinely affordable accommodation, which could be open to both students and non-students. We believe students also need and desire affordable, habitable, rent-controlled housing.
The local Gorgie Dalry community have put a lot of time and immense effort into challenging private PBSA planning proposals, including Scotmid Gorgie Road and Richmond Terrace, which was withdrawn after strong community opposition. But the local community also knows that all the developers need to do is make tiny tweaks to their planning proposals and appeal should local Councillors vote their proposals down, and the fight starts all over again, including submitting comments on the planning portal despite having already done so.
Or if the appeal fails, sometimes developers go running off begging to the Scottish Government Minister (who doesn’t even represent or live in Edinburgh) or to a Special Reporter with zero accountability to the electorate, who sometimes decides to ignore the democratic vote of elected councillors. We also have no Equal Rights of Appeal, or any new community empowerment in the planning process. This urgently needs to change in the next new parliament.
People are in desperate need of being represented by politicians motivated by public service as so many people do not have the luxury to wait years for MSPs (who are not priced out of mortgages or high rent) to accelerate the building of more public and social housing, introduce planning policies to disincentivise private PBSA development, reform short-term lets and review rent control; which should have been addressed and implemented by now.
Also, much more needs to be done in policy to encourage developers to put forward planning proposals that will prioritise the needs of local people and communities rather than maximising profits at the expense of other people’s misery in struggling to make ends meet to afford their own homes.
See more at Housing Activism: https://housingjustice.wixsite.com/activism
Scotland’s Housing Crisis: http://www.scotlandhousingcrisis.org.uk/