Plans have been tabled to turn former council offices in the west wing of the City Chambers into serviced holiday apartments.
Lateral City Limited want to secure a long-term lease deal with Edinburgh City Council to transform 329 High Street, next to the Real Mary King’s Close, into 24 serviced holiday apartments.
Unlike short-term let apartments that are unregulated and take away housing stock in tenement blocks in the Old Town, the 329 High Street proposals would lead to disused offices becoming fully managed apartments that meet planning regulations.
If approved, the A-listed building, which dates from the 18th century, would be turned into an extension for the Old Town Chambers apartments – with the reception room relocating to the High Street. Retail, restaurant and bar space would be provided at ground floor, mezzanine and basement levels.
READ MORE: Scandal of Edinburgh tenants trapped in Airbnb-style slum deals
A planning statement on behalf of Lateral City Limited, adds: “The proposed development will compliment and expand the existing serviced apartments at Old Town Chambers, located to the rear of the site.”
Before the building was closed by the council, it provided the career transition service, through care and after care for communities and families departments, was home to the Leith and City Centre Neigbourhood Team and was used by young persons services.
Council reports indicate a long lease “allows the council to retain ownership and control over future use”.
READ MORE: Community fury at plan to turn Edinburgh Old Town offices into holiday lets
Cllr Alasdair Rankin, finance and resources convener, said: “It is important that we make the best use of all of our buildings and maximise income to allow us to deliver essential front-line services such education and caring for the elderly. This is done where we can when buildings are no longer needed for council business. We are currently negotiating a long lease for 329 High Street which will be granted subject to planning permission. If planning permission is granted, the properties would be professionally managed and regulated.”
Fears have been raised that housing stock and office space is frequently being handed over to the tourism industry, at the expense of local residents.
Green Cllr Claire Miller, who represents the city centre, said: “There are many things we need in the heart of the Old Town, but more holiday
apartments is not high on my list of priorities.
READ MORE: Edinburgh Airbnb hosts using key-storing padlocks in city parks to avoid legal issues
“The community here in the city centre will tell you that many homes have already been lost to the tourism industry, and I’ve been vocal in my opposition to the loss of residential property.”
Terry Levinthal, director of Heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association, has called for the council to carry out a “re-structuring of tourist accommodation” in the city centre.
He added: “There is no reason whatsoever for the city council to not put measures in place now to address the impact of short-term holiday lets. The Cockburn retains the same concern about over-tourism in the World Heritage Site, and especially the Old Town.”