Construction on a block of student flats in west Edinburgh is to begin within months – despite anger from residents that it will not include development of local facilities.
The controversial scheme at West Tollcross, which will see 240 student bedrooms built alongside private accommodation and commercial premises, has been given the green light at the third time of asking following rejection of an earlier proposal because it did not include sufficient water space.
Mactaggart & Mickel Homes has been given permission to proceed without developing the original canal basin – a key condition of an earlier application for the site that was given the go-ahead in 2007.
Local residents have slammed the decision as “destructive” and said the company had used earlier planning approval as a back door for obtaining permission without having to invest in the waterway.
Stan Reeves, of the Fountain- bridge Canalside Initiative, said: “The local community here is extremely disappointed.
“I think the relationship between the developer, the council and other relevant bodies, such as British Waterways, needs to be looked at again. It shouldn’t just be the developer carrying the cost for the basin if it’s going to be too costly. Other bodies, like the council, could have stepped in to help.”
Paul Beswick, chair of Tollcross community council, said: “Having the basin would have meant there was more activity along the canal – more boats and more space for moorings.
“We feel we’ve ended up with the very project that was rejected originally.” But the developer and city planners defended the project and said inclusion of the basin would have made it economically unviable.
Craig Ormond, land manager at Mactaggart & Mickel, said the site could have lain derelict for years if the council had insisted on including the basin.
He added that the company would now seek to begin construction “by the autumn”.
He said: “Consent for the previous scheme was given at a different time in the market when we felt we could incorporate elements like extending the basin. But the market is different now and the cost was seen as making the scheme unviable.”
John Bury, the city council’s planning leader, said: “The consented development demonstrated that the reuse of the original basin was not a viable option and, given this, Historic Scotland has no objections.
“The creation of a new canal basin and new public open space were considered to outweigh the loss of the original basin.”