INFRASTRUCTURE

Edinburgh University pulls out of controversial £50m accommodation development

SOURCE: Drum Property Group
Edinburgh University has pulled out of a controversial £50 million development to build a hotel and student accommodation on the city’s Leith Walk.

Edinburgh University has pulled out of a controversial £50 million (US$65 million) development to build a hotel and student accommodation on the city’s Leith Walk.

The community spoke out against the proposed build after it announced plans to demolish the red sandstone building at Stead’s Place to make way for the mixed-use development.

The proposals laid out plans to demolish the site to make way for hundreds of student flats, a 56-bedroom hotel and 53 affordable homes. Despite the city council unanimously voting down the planning permission for the project, Drum Property Group – the developers behind it – lodged an appeal with Scottish Minister protesting the decision.

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But the University of Edinburgh, which presented the proposals to the council alongside developers at the planning hearing in January, has now walked away from the application – and is no longer interested in pursuing the 471 student flats for postgraduates.

“The university has kept a close interest in the proposed plan for Stead’s Place and, after giving it careful consideration, has decided not to pursue that interest any further,” a university spokesperson said.

While the university’s decision has been welcomed by many in the community, it has come too late for many business owners who have been forced to close their doors.

Only four businesses remain on the stretch, all of whom are expected to close their doors by the end of the year.

A representative from the Save Leith Walk community group said he was “surprised” by the university’s announcement, but grateful.

“We appreciate that the University of Edinburgh has finally acknowledged the concerns of our community,” he said.

“Unfortunately, this has come too late for many of the local businesses in Stead’s Place that have been forced to close.”

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It seems Drum Property Group plans to push ahead with the development, despite the controversy and pressure from local councillors. Following Edinburgh University’s announcement, Group Managing Director Graeme Bone said they were already in talks with other university operators.

“Since purchasing the Stead’s Place site in 2017, we have been delighted with the high levels of interest in the innovative student and hotel elements of our proposals from a range of potential operators, including the University of Edinburgh,” Bone said.

“We are close to selecting our preferred operating partner for what will be a game-changing and vibrant mixed-use development and will make a further announcement when those discussions have concluded.”