MSP vows to force debate over student flats boom

CONCERNS over the number of student flats in one area of the Capital are set to be ­discussed in the Scottish ­Parliament.

Marco Biagi says the issue of student flats in the Southside should be a matter for Holyrood. Picture: Greg Macvean

SNP MSP Marco Biagi is aiming to win cross-party support to force a debate on the amount of university accommodation in the Southside.

There was controversy last month when the Scottish Government reporter David Buylla gave the go-ahead for a 237-bed student development at Lutton Court. His decision came after the city council planning committee originally turned down the application in March.

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Campaigners reacted angrily to the move, which will push the student population in the area beyond 60 per cent. They believe the influx is creating a “ghetto” and “eroding the sense of community”.

Mr Biagi has sought a member’s debate at the Scottish Parliament, but needs cross-party support before it can be held.

He said in a statement: “After the shock decision in August by the independent reporter to accept the Lutton Court private student housing development on appeal, I immediately sought a Member’s Debate in Holyrood.

“If this is accepted it will bring the Minister for Local Government and Planning to the chamber and give all of Edinburgh’s MSPs a chance to present their views to him, and I now have a promise of a slot in the busy Scottish Parliament timetable. I urge all the Lothian MSPs to back this motion so that these views can be aired in Holyrood.”

Plans in the area include Unite Students’ bid to build a 579-bed complex on St Leonard’s Street by demolishing the current Homebase DIY store, Edinburgh University’s plans to create more student housing on Meadow Lane and Buccleuch Place and proposals to build around 187 student residences in a Causewayside printing ­office.

Labour MSP Sarah Boyack, who pledged her support, said: “I’m a strong supporter of the Save our Southside campaign.

“To date I’ve taken up the issue on behalf of constituents with Edinburgh University, the council and the Scottish Government. I’ve met with members of the public both directly and at community meetings over the last few weeks.

“However, I’m still waiting for a response from the planning minister to my request for a meeting to discuss the reporter’s decision on Lutton Court as it drives a coach and horses through the council’s policy.

“A debate in the Scottish Parliament would help put pressure on the Scottish Government so I’ll be supporting Marco Biagi’s motion.”

Lisa Sibbald, of the ­Southside Association, has previously said that the rapid growth of student housing in the area was in danger of destroying the balance of the ­community.