Submitted by Editor on Thu, 15/06/2023 - 08:27

A Reporter acting for Scottish Ministers has refused planning permission for a proposed development on the former Jewson’s site at 72–4 Eyre Place.

CA Europe had wanted to create purpose-built student accommodation comprising 142 flats across 3–6 storeys here. In a separate application, it proposed 9 townhouses adjacent. The firm had gone direct to appeal after the Council failed to determine the cases in timely fashion.

Numerous local residents, the New Town & Broughton Community Council, the Yard, Cockburn Association, Friends of King George V Park, an MP, MSPs and local councillors opposed the PBSA plans.

The Reporter's two decisions (PPA-230-2432 and PPA-140-2008) can be found here.

Eyre Place
Student housing

The Reporter found that the proposal would not result in an undue concentration (over 50% of local population) in student numbers which would unbalance the neighbouring community.

However, the design’s 5–6-storey scale, height and massing would be at odds with the current ‘mews character’ of Eyre Place Lane and the sense of place here.

Noise in external community spaces would have the potential to negatively impact neighbouring residential amenity.

In conclusion, the reporter stated, ‘I am not convinced that the redevelopment of the builders merchant’s yard offers sufficient justification for setting aside my concerns regarding design and amenity.

'I therefore conclude … that the proposed development does not accord overall with the relevant provisions of the development plan and that there are no material considerations which would still justify granting planning permission. I have considered all the other matters raised, but there are none which would lead me to alter my conclusions.’

Eyre Place Lane

Regarding the separate application for townhouses, the Reporter said the plans failed to take account of the sloping site and would result in an ‘uncomfortable relationship’ with the existing mews dwellings opposite.

She said insufficient information had been provided by CA Europe to demonstrate that daylight to the windows of the existing or proposed development on the lane could be achieved in line with the technical standards advocated by Edinburgh Council’s Design Guide.

For this reason, the Reporter was ‘unable to establish with any certainty’ that the development would comply with Council policies protecting the amenity of current neighbours and future occupiers.

These shortcomings in design led the Reporter to conclude that the proposal would not comply with the overall Edinburgh Local Development Plan.

Local reaction

The 400 locals who raised objections to the proposal, and the 399 who signed a petition against it, are understandably delighted. Campaigner Vince Meiklejohn told the Spurtle, ‘It’s been 18 months since the planning application was raised and the community have from the outset, felt this was a lazy, opportunistic and inappropriate plan from a multinational venture capital company with zero interest in the community.

‘The process has caused stress and anxiety in the community (a community supportive of residential development involving family homes and affordable housing on the site]  and we are delighted that in the final stage these plans have been rejected.

‘The lack of a public hearing and the initial response from the city of Edinburgh Planning Department all caused dismay.

‘However, in the final analysis. common sense and justice has prevailed and the community are no longer threatened by a development that would have meant the local residents were overlooked and overshadowed by an overdeveloped plan that would simply not fit happily within the existing environment.’

Foysol Choudhury MSP commented: ‘The developers attempted to bypass local democracy and failed in their appeal, which is of course a relief for my constituents, but we must learn lessons so that local democracy is not circumvented like this again in the future. 

‘Nevertheless, I am glad that this deeply unpopular planning application has been denied. It's great to see what can be achieved through the power of community!’

Local resident Hannah Edwards, said: ‘Our community is delighted with the Reporter's decision. It reflects what was obvious to so many when we first saw this aggressive proposal 18 months ago. A development of this size on a constrained site would have had a really negative impact on the lives of so many.

‘We're eternally grateful to each and every person who fought so hard to get the result we were so dearly hoping for.’

What next?

Local campaigners are due their moment in the sun, and we salute them. Nevertheless, there is a great deal in the Reporter’s findings which agrees with the developer’s overall vision for student accommodation and adjacent townhouses in this location.

We would not be surprised to see a modified proposal along similar lines brought forward in future.