Edinburgh arts base under threat from £15m student flats deal

THE Capital's biggest independent arts complex is under threat after landlords flogged its base to developers for £15m.
St Margaret's House at MeadowbankSt Margaret's House at Meadowbank
St Margaret's House at Meadowbank

The new owners of former government building St Margaret’s House, in London Road, want to turn it into affordable housing, student flats and “facilities for the benefit of the local community”.

The site has existing planning permission for housing, student accommodations, plus a hotel, offices and other commercial space.

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But the developers say it is too early to say in detail what the final plans may include.

St Margaret's HouseSt Margaret's House
St Margaret's House

More than 200 workshops housing painters, craftsmen, a theatre and disability charity are now at risk.

“It’s a bit of a disaster, to be honest,” acclaimed artist Chris Rutterford, a former St Margaret’s tenant, told the Evening News.

“You make Edinburgh 
poorer in no uncertain terms because there are multiple small businesses in there.”

The Edinburgh Palette charity starting taking over the seven floors of St Margaret’s ten years ago, providing an affordable base for artists.

St Margaret's HouseSt Margaret's House
St Margaret's House

Popular mural artist Mr 
Rutterford spent six-and-a-half-years honing his skills at the centre before being forced out by rising rents.

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“I was able to develop to the point I’m at,” said Mr Rutterford. “There’s a real danger artists will end up working from their spare rooms.

“If you don’t have creative spaces then people will stay in their bedsits and nothing gets made.”

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Aside from studios, print works a dance floor and gallery, Edinburgh Palette is home to a range of organisations – including Edinburgh Judo Club.

Local councillor John McLellan hailed the centre’s achievements as “miraculous” and unique within the city.

“The value of what the Edinburgh Palette provides goes beyond the development value of the site and everything possible should be done to preserve what goes on there,” said Cllr McLellan.

“At the very least the new owners should engage with the Edinburgh Palette management so they fully understand what will be lost if the site is redeveloped for flats and help find a solution which secures a future for the tenants.”

Landlords Caledonian Trust struck a deal with developers Drum Property Group for the site this week. Caledonian Trust CEO Douglas Lowe said he was “delighted” to have shaken hands on the deal.

“The development is in a prime location in Edinburgh for student accommodation and affordable housing,” he said.

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Planning permission agreed in principle include a new hotel, offices, student accommodation, apartments and a 225-space car park.

Drum Property Group managing director Graeme Bone said: “St Margaret’s House represents a significant opportunity to contribute to the regeneration of an area of the city that has been identified for major redevlopment by the city council.”

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“Drum has a proven track record of working together with local communities and delivering sensitive regeneration projects across Scotland. We look forward to consulting with local residents and groups.”