Former Leith watch tower set for conversion from hotel to HMO despite 150 objections

The Victoria Park House Hotel.
The Victoria Park House Hotel.
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PLANS to convert a prominent hotel and bar into a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) are set to be approved by councillors – despite the proposals tallying up 156 letters of objection from residents.

The owners of the Victoria Park House Hotel and the Gosford Bar, on Ferry Road, have applied to Edinburgh City Council to close down the guest house to run the premises as a HMO. The change of use application will be considered by the council’s development management sub-committee when it meets on Wednesday. Five car parking spaces and 30 cycle parking spaces are proposed as part of the overhaul.

The hotel, which dates back to 1897 and includes a three-storey tower, was originally built by a glass merchant to search for ships coming into the Port of Leith. The building has been used as a hotel for the last 50 years and was once owned by boxer Ken Buchanan.

The current owners, the De Gaetano family, have run the hotel since 2004.

Officials have recommended that councillors back the proposals and grant planning permission – but the application will be subject to a formal hearing, with some of the 186 objectors given a chance to speak out against the plans.

In a report to councillors, planning officials said: “The proposed use and alterations would be compatible with the existing building and the character of the area.

“The impact on neighbouring amenity is acceptable and an acceptable level of car and cycle parking has been provided. Additionally, the proposal has no adverse implications for the special character and appearance of the Victoria Park Conservation Area and has special regard to the character of the listed building. The proposal complies with all other relevant policies and non-statutory guidelines.

“It will provide a form of living accommodation compatible with nearby residential use. Additionally, hotels generally have a higher turnover of users than HMO properties so the frequency of individuals arriving and leaving the premises will be less with the HMO. The function hall will cease to operate. This would in turn potentially improve the residential environment of nearby residents.”

A HMO licence is required for a property being used to accommodate three of more people who are not related to each other.

The hotel currently contains 10 bedrooms, as well as a large function hall, the Gosford Bar and a residents’ bar and restaurant. The existing bedrooms have a capacity of 23 – but this will be bumped up to 30 across 19 bedrooms – with the bars and restaurants being converted into extra sleeping space.

Planning documents submitted by the owners, say: “Looking to the future, the family have considered their options for the hotel and a change of use to a house of multiple occupation represents the most economical and suitable investment in the property given it’s existing use and scale.”

The hotel owners declined to comment further on the application.

Objectors will be able to have their say at Wednesday’s crunch hearing – with Russell Combe, Kirstie Hustler and Fiona McLean listed to speak.

In her letter of objection to planners, Miss McLean raised worries that “no specification has been given here regarding clients, tenure or management” and further said she has “grave concerns” over the “extremely short consultation window” for locals to have their say.

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