Edinburgh Boatel plan set to go ahead on Union Canal

Barges moored on the Union canal will soon be joined by floating hotels.
Barges moored on the Union canal will soon be joined by floating hotels.
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Proposals to allow five boats to be used as floating hotels on the Union Canal are set to be approved – despite tallying up 374 letters of objection.

The Edinburgh Boatel company has applied for permission to use five moorings outside Boroughmuir High School in Fountainbridge. If approved by councillors next week, each boatel, designed as Scandinavian narrow boats, will accommodate four people. Planning officers have recommended that the plans are approved.

Each of the five boats will contain a double room and a bunk room – along with a separate bathroom and an open plan saloon or dining area. Boatel guests are expected to be families or “commercial executives looking for an unusual leisure experience”.

But one local councillor has claimed the location could act as a barrier to Boroughmuir High School being more involved in the canal.

Green ward Cllr Gavin Corbett and the city canal champion, said: “I am surprised and disappointed that officers have recommended approval of this application but the final decision lies with councillors and I would expect them to look very carefully at it next week.

“Scottish Canals has developed a new moorings strategy for the locality without any community dialogue and now a commercial operator has come forward with a boatels proposal right outside the school front door. There’s been extensive discussion about the proposal both in the neighbourhood and in the school community. Hardly anyone objects to the idea of boatels at the end of the canal, indeed there is already one boatel there. It is the exact location which is all wrong.”

He added: “It is wrong because it will block off access to the canal which the school could and should use as part of its own activities, from launching its own canoes, to using the canal side for science, geography or history lessons. I really want Boroughmuir High School to be part of the canal, not just beside the canal.

“And it is wrong from a business point of view. Will holiday-makers really relish a location where almost 1,200 young people stream past just after 8am every morning? So I’d be astonished if councillors backed the idea.”

A review of options for mooring types by Scottish Canals, responsible for managing the country’s inland waterways, has allocated 12 sites on the Union Canal for new boat hotels.

Each purpose built, engine-less boat will be 20m long. Power and water will be available from hook-ups. Guests will arrive from 11am and checkout would be between 10am and 11am once the school day has started.

Environmental protection officers have objected “on the grounds of potential vocal disturbance from boat hotel users”. They also raised concerns that “clientele are likely to use the towpath for smoking and socialising particularly at night”.

In a report, planning officers said the proposals will “enhance the appearance of a currently visually empty part of the canal” and will “add positively to the canalscape through its attractive boat frontage”.

They also said the proposals will “complement the residential moorings and help create an active, vibrant frontage throughout the year”.