This month, the University of Edinburgh started the process of constructing five ‘student villages’ in Bristo Square, Pollock Halls, George Square, King’s Buildings, and Easter Bush, to allow students to socialise safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The university’s accommodation website describes Bristo Square’s student village as a “two-floor, Scandinavian-style lodge serving hot and cold drinks and snacks.”
The Cockburn Association, a civic trust that monitors urban planning in Edinburgh, claimed that the construction of the village lacked planning permission.
Their social media addressed the Edinburgh Council’s Chief Planning Officer, who they had “written to … asking for clarity of the planning status of this development, which is being erected now.
“Our view is that the project requires Planning Consent and probably Listed Building Consent.
“Our searches suggest no application has been made.”
There have also been concerns from Edinburgh locals and students. An Edinburgh local who is a former student at the University of Edinburgh interviewed with The Student:
“It’s a complete eyesore that no one asked for – not only does it look like shipping containers stacked on top of each other, but it’s built right over Bristo square which was renovated recently.”
“It has also pushed the local skateboarders out of most of the square – these are local kids who have been using the square for years and are a fixture in the community, and it’s unclear where they’ll have to go.”
“While the uni is being unclear about whether it’s safe for students to have in-person classes, and have threatened students in Pollock Halls with expulsion for breaking social distancing, they clearly have no qualms about building drinking establishments to profit from students socialising.
“Furthermore, it builds on the precedent set by Underbelly that large private entities can just build for-profit projects on public open spaces without planning permission, and without consulting either the students or the public.
As a student who grew up in this city, seeing the uni continue down this harmful route is deeply disheartening.”
The University of Edinburgh explained that these “spacious venues have been carefully designed to provide students with extra hospitality space, as capacity in buildings has been greatly reduced.”
The University also stated that this is “part of a range of measures to safeguard the wellbeing of students, staff and the local community.”
The range of measures allegedly include hand sanisation facilities, one-way systems, study space booking, and improved cleaning system that will follow Scottish government guidance.
With new regulations on 24 September restricting students from visiting pubs or socialising outside of their accommodation, it is unclear when the village will be usable by students even when construction is finished.
Image Credit: University of Edinburgh