Demolition and development near 139 Leith Walk

Posted on: May 20, 2022

Although we find much to support in this scheme, the overdominance of student housing against formal policy and excessive height of some of the blocks means we cannot support the proposals as they stand.

Address: Land To East Of 139 Leith Walk Edinburgh

Proposal:  Demolition of existing warehouse building and construction of flatted dwellings (including student accommodation and other uses) and a reconfiguration of the existing car park.

Reference No: 22/01563/FUL

Closing date for comments: 20 May 2022

Determination date: 10 Aug 2022

Result: Pending 

Cockburn Response

The Cockburn Association has reviewed these proposals for a student housing development with additional housing and offer the following comments.

We accept that this is a development opportunity and are aware of the Halmyre Street Development Brief that was prepared by the City Council recently.  We are also aware that the Edinburgh Urban Design Panel reviewed these proposals (comments are on the planning portal) and noted their concern that the proposal appears out of context and advocated a design approach which integrates with the city. They also expressed concern at the proposed land use of residential and student accommodation and advocated that the proposed height, mass and scale should be reconsidered. The Panel did not consider it appropriate to use the Mecca Bingo building as a datum level to set heights on the site.

We agree with the points raised and whilst we think that some amendments have been made since the EUDP considered the proposals, these do not go far enough to make this scheme acceptable.

Firstly, we have strong reservations about the uses.  In relative terms, the scheme is dominated by student housing where the need is for mainstream housing, especially affordable.  The proposed 235 student flats and only 45 flats is not acceptable and falls far short of guidelines which suggest a minimum of 50% housing for such a site as this.  On this ground alone, the application should be refused consent.

In terms of scale and massing, we believe that the proposed 6-storey high block B is too large for this site.  A reduction in height would be more in keeping with the character of the area.

Against these concerns, the overall layout has produced some very interesting internal spaces and the landscape architecture is well-considered and developed.  We also find the architectural disposition and composition positive with much to commend it.  Perhaps the exception to this is the affordable housing block with its monopitch roof and generally bland elevational treatment.

In summary, whilst we can see positive elements in these proposals, the overconcentration of student accommodation versus mainstream housing coupled with the excessive height means we cannot support this application.