The local Edinburgh children’s hospital is going to be turned into student housing. A fantastic controversial headline, but not really the whole truth. The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, affectionately referred to as ‘Sick Kids,’ was actually sold by NHS Lothian in 2017, pre-empting the hospital’s move to a new site in Little France last year. Their new site is bigger and better than ever, with more beds and a multitude of new resources for young people, including a new mental health services unit and a department of clinical neurosciences. So no, evil money-hungry developers are not tipping ill children out of hospital beds in favour of churning out yet more student apartments. But does that mean we should turn a blind eye?
It’s no secret that Edinburgh is overrun. Anyone who’s had to find a flat in the city centre will be well aware of the ever-rising rent prices and the overwhelmingly unbalanced ratio of flats to flat-hunters. Landlords and letting agents know they can increase their prices exponentially, because some poor students, left with no choice, will eventually give in and pay £600 a month each to live in a dingy ground floor flat in Newington. As a result, students are pricing locals and young professionals out of the city. And now, Edinburgh council want to dedicate space to another 323 flats’ worth of freshers, who within a year will be contributing even further to the maelstrom that is the Edinburgh flat hunt. That’s a pretty unappealing prospect for students and locals alike.
It isn’t hard to see why locals might be disillusioned with the student population, especially when you consider that Downing, the developers who bought the Sick Kids site, outpriced a community buyout bid whose intention was to turn the site into an affordable housing estate.
The Marchmont and Sciennes area is already packed with students, with the Sciennes House first-year accommodation only minutes down the road from the old hospital site. In an area already dominated by students, with rents rising yearly to keep up with demand, building non-student housing would have been a real win for local families – especially given the site is right next to a primary school.
It’s not that students don’t have a right to live in the city – most of us absolutely adore Edinburgh, but should that really come at the cost non-students and their families, who are much more likely to contribute to local amenities?
Downing may not be turning sick children out onto the streets, but their plans to build student accommodation in an already over-saturated area will not be met with good grace. They may be keeping the original facade in an effort to maintain a piece of Edinburgh’s history, but that same Edinburgh is slowly slipping through the fingers of its locals, as tensions with the student population rise further in light of the upcoming 323 new student-only flats. The defeat of the community bid may well be forgiven, but it will be a long time before it’s forgotten.
Image: dImItrIsvetsIkas via pixabay