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

See also: https://news.stv.tv/east-central/tackling-edinburgh-housing-crisis-crucial-to-reducing-poverty?top

Scotland’s Housing Crisis: http://www.scotlandhousingcrisis.org.uk/


Comments (17)

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  1. Jim Stamper says:

    Planning authorities should be forming community lead local plans with uses reflecting the need of the communities. Planning applications which are not in line should have at most a single consideration and any refusal on non compliance with the local plan should not be open to appeal. I would go further in any vacant land or derelict buildings should require to have plans submitted in line with the local plan. If they don’t and are obstructing the local plan they should be subject to compulsory sale on the understanding that the purchaser must comply with the local plan and make a submission within a limited timeframe.

  2. Kyle says:

    To be fair, the old school has been sitting empty for years. It’s not like housing associations have been trying to turn it into affordable housing. And more students in purpose built accomodation means fewer students in HMO flats.

  3. Cailleach Bheag says:

    The construction industry alone is protected from risk or loss by planning regulations. So far as I can see, there’s little benefit to Edinburgh from these developments, since the companies are based outside Edinburgh, often outside Scotland, and locals don’t even get employment from them as they bring their own teams in to carry out the work.
    Student blocks are more profitable than housing as there’s no obligation to provide parking, and standards are lower.

  4. florian albert says:

    Ashley Graczyk’s analysis is good but can be taken a bit further. It is hardly a coincidence that the two areas most affected by the growth of student accommodation are Leith and Gorgie; two poles of working class Edinburgh. What is happening is a distorted form of gentrification. (There can be positives to gentrification but the downside – displacement of a working class community – is greater.)
    The growth of student accommodation is the inevitable result of the city banking heavily on Higher Education as part of its future prosperity. Good for middle class student types, not good for working class communities.
    Apart from anything else, it is not certain that students – and for that matter tourists – will return in the numbers experienced before the pandemic. If they do not, a lot of money will be lost by those who have invested, and are still investing, in this type of property.
    On the subject of housing, it is noticeable how little is said of this issue in the election campaign. It is worth asking why there is no loud political campaign for more social housing. Two reasons come to mind; the poor record of councils in providing housing, especially in the big cities, means that there is still a reluctance to trust
    councils (or housing associations). Getting on the property ladder is still the preferred option. Second, with social housing, the question of how such housing is allocated arises. Here again, distrust of officialdom may be a factor.
    Finally, the savings which many of the middle classes have been able to accumulate during lockdown already seems to be having an undesirable effect on property prices.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      The working class hasn’t disappeared from areas like Tynecastle and Leith because it’s been displaced by white settlers. It disappeared from those areas because the industry of which it was the creature, and on which was dependent for its existence as a class, disappeared. The Scottish working class as such largely disappeared with the de-industrialisation of Scotland in the 1980s; it survives largely as nothing more than a badge of political identity worn by reactionary socialists.

      1. Niemands says:

        Hm, but whatever it is called, there are still swathes of people on lower incomes who struggle to find somewhere to live and often in the place they were brought up.

        I don’t really understand it all but is not the big problem the economics of housing does not stack up any more so for private companies they cannot make enough money of building affordable housing to want to bother? Where I live, planning was given for hundreds of houses on a hillside I have a great view of. Work started about four years ago and there was a lot of shovelling of earth, then gradually less and less and now nothing – not a single house has been built. Reading between the lines, the profit margins just disappeared and the company have seemingly given up.

        Social / council housing would seem to be the answer but that takes political will and though one would have thought it was right up the SNP’s street, in reality they seem unwilling to do much and are as in love with private finance as the best arch capitalists and ‘colonialists’.

        As for students / tourists in Edinburgh, I would have thought the tourists will be back no problem, but students, less certain as the HE sector is in partial meltdown and one thing that could happen is a significant reduction of student numbers over the next few years. Given its status as a city, I suspect Edinburgh would be protected from the worst fallout but not entirely. The financial stresses of a possible independent Scotland might make that free tuition look inviable too.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Yes, that’s indeed the problem: the provision of housing for the déclassé is costly, and it isn’t clear to us as a society whence this cost is to be met. Housing for workers used to be seen as an investment, but there’s no return to be made from any such investment in those who have been isolated from the forces of production and lost to socially useful work (or ‘deproletarianised’, as the Marxists used to say).

      2. florian albert says:

        The industry which the working class helped create and sustain has disappeared. The working class mostly remains; though some have ‘escaped’ to more prosperous areas. If you doubt that, stand at the Foot of the Walk in Leith for 10 minutes. Or visit Airdrie, Greenock, Kirkcaldy or 30 other post-industrial towns across Central Scotland.
        The ‘new’ working class is needed as delivery drivers, in care homes and in supermarkets as well as in jobs which have remained, bus driving and delivering the mail.
        I find your dismissal of the working class as unconvincing as the romanticization of it by ‘reactionary socialists.’

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Well… no, flo. The industry that created and sustained a working-class as such has disappeared, leaving those whom it sustained ‘declassed’. Those workers to whom you allude no longer constitute a class. They constitute an underclass; what Marx called the ‘Lumpenproletariat’, the unthinking lower strata of society that are exploited by reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces through consumerism and popular culture.

          1. Niemand says:

            Underclass? I would not call a postman or delivery driver underclass. The underclass are generally those with no jobs and especially those who have never had a job. I think your class interpretation has gone skewiff here.

            Florian is right – manufacturing and other similar industries have significantly wained but to suggest there are not a whole host new and old jobs that are still very much the province of what we call the working class is plain wrong. It may be that the organised, very conscious sense of ‘the working class’ has wained with the emasculation of the unions etc and new types exploitative of ‘contract’ (read so-called self employed Amazon drivers) but the kind of person who would once have worked in a mill or factory and whose needs and aspirations epitomise class divisions and the disadvantages they bring, is still a very significant proportion of the population of the UK.

            I think this every time I thank the postman, Amazon delivery driver, bus driver, taxi, builder, Co-op worker, corporation ‘estate’ worker, security person, hospital porter, dustman, nursery worker, gardener, receptionist etc etc. These are still the jobs and people that make this country actually function and I would not at all call them ‘unthinking’ either – they are just in a position of even less power than once was.

          2. Pub Bore says:

            And why are they in a position of less power than they were? Because they have been ‘declassed’. I grant there are lots of hard-working people around, but they no longer constitute a ‘class’ in anything other than a mathematical sense.

          3. florian albert says:

            Your comment only makes sense if you allow Karl Marx to dictate what does and does not constitute a class. I don’t.

          4. Pub Bore says:

            So, flo: whose class theory informs your understanding of social stratification, and why is it preferable to that which Marx proposed?

          5. Niemand says:

            I suspect if you asked the people in question they would mostly say they were working class with little hesitation. Some of that might tally with what Marx might have said, some won’t but as a very broad group they share many thing that make them distinct from those who identify as other classes (including the so-called underclass). I do not think you need a theoretical and ideological frame to understand this. Nor does not adhering to that, or any frame mean some kind of ‘de-classing’ has happened at a fundamental level – that is a circular argument in fact. Furthermore, the other obvious reason for saying that is that it does not tally with reality: the working class life, culture and sensibility exists in abundance.

          6. Pub Bore says:

            This might be true, but whose class theory – which ideology – informs the self-conception of ‘the people in question’? And why is it preferable to that which Marx proposed?

            I prefer Marx’s theory because it frames ‘the working-class’ as a powerful agent of revolution rather than a helpless, pitiable, and – above all – dependent victim of injustice; as a liberation theology, it strikes off the chains/frees us from our mental enslavement to the ideology of victimhood, and gives us a world to win rather than one we can only suffer.

            And, yes; this is tautological or self-confirming. That’s the nature of theory as praxis; that is, as the process by which that theory is enacted, embodied, or realised. Ideologies make themselves true in and through their enactment. Since the death of God, this is the only kind of truth a theory can have. Everything is ideology.

  5. florian albert says:

    pub bore

    Whose class theory informs my understanding ?

    Nobody’s class theory. I find that a ‘class theory’ is one of the many things I can get by without. I am far from alone in this.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Ah, well, you see; that’s where you’re wrong. Everything we say and do is underpinned and shaped by theory. As soon as we act or open our mouths, we invoke a whole world of conceptual relations or ‘ideology’, without the context of which our actions and utterances would quite literally be meaningless.

      Now, when you speak of ‘the working class’, you evidently do mean something. That meaning is the theory that underpins and shapes what you say. My discourse on ‘the working class’ acquires its meaning from Marxian ideology; it would be interesting to excavate the ideology (and to test the coherence thereof) that informs your discourse on the same through a process of elenchus.

      ‘Elenchus’ is the praxis Socrates employed to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out the ideas and presuppositions that underlie our beliefs and behaviours and on which their meaning depends. It takes the form of argumentative dialogue and is fundamental to philosophical enquiry.

      It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, though. Most folk prefer the surety of dogmatic thinking to the doubt of critical thinking.

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