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Potterrow student housing plans spark local outcry

ByMatt Bennett

Mar 31, 2015
Author: Google Maps

New plans for student accommodation facilities in the city centre have sparked a fresh area of contention between students and permanent residents.

The £2.9 million sale of land for a new student development in the Potterrow complex has been met with strong opposition by residents and community groups.

The site, which property developer Macdonald Estates plans to turn into a 52-room student complex, has come under fire from both local residents and students alike as another example of real estate companies buying land and developing it for an exclusive market to which most students or local residents do not belong.

Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, a resident of Buccleuch Street and member of the campaign group Save Buccleuch Street and Meadow Lane Edinburgh said: “I feel dread – it makes me feel sick”. They also emphasised tensions between local residents and students over issues such as late night parties and noise.

Second year graphic designer Angus, who has been searching for student flats since February, told The Student: “The whole process of flat finding has been competitive enough as it is – I disagree with the idea of this new Potterrow development because it is a really great area, really close to the University and lots of great shops and restaurants. I think it would be a shame if even more students and locals were priced out of the area by private developers.”

Discussing the development, Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi told The Student: “Purpose-built student accommodation has a role to play in meeting student needs, particularly for international and first-year students who’re moving to the city for the first time. But university-owned accommodation, or the superb example of the student housing co-op, is much preferable to corporate landlords charging extortionate rents.

“The shortlist for the Potterrow site was made up exclusively of private student developers. Most people would view that as a broken market for land in the city centre – we also need residential developments and we need more affordable accommodation. This would serve students and non-students alike.”

He added:  “I’ve been arguing that the council should require private student developers to include a quota of affordable homes in their developments, just as other residential developers have to. This would level the playing field and help ensure a fresh supply of lower-cost housing for the city centre.”

The response from local residents, the local press and students in Edinburgh seems overwhelmingly negative towards current trends in the city’s property market, making it unlikely that a peaceful compromise will be found soon.

The Student reached out to Macdonald Estates and the Edinburgh Tenants Federation about the land purchase, but neither party was available for comment.

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