Houses planned for factory site

Plans for new housing in the Bonnington area of Leith were discussed and debated  at the November meeting of Leith Central Community Council (LCCC).

Architects Fouin andBell, acting for Hillside Housing Association (HHA), presented the proposal with a member of estate management company P2 Partnership (Bonnington) Ltd for land betweenSouth Fort Street/West Bowling Green StreetandGraham Street.

Principal landowners for the site are the fourth-generation family business and engineering firm Blake Group, which specialises in multi-disciplinary steel fabrications and tank manufacturing. The 70-year-old factory on the site is no longer fit for purpose and the company now intend to relocate outside Edinburgh. In 2006 Blakes engaged with the City of Edinburghto produce a Development Brief for the Bonnington area (BDB). This meant that sites which were originally industrial could now be designated for residential housing with some industrial units.

With one goal being to provide affordable rented housing for key workers in the area, the proposed scheme includes a mix of rental tenures, with a variety of sizes from studio through to three-bedroom family flats. Some rents would be mainstream, almost 150 mid- market, and more than 30 flats providing affordable rents.  The accommodation would be managed by HHA.

The developers told the meeting that an application will be made in December 2011 for Phase 1A of the project, which is for 49 flats; the early timescale being necessary to obtain Housing Association Grant Funding.

Community Council members had concerns about this timescale and fears that demolition would occur before funding was in place. It was also felt that that the proposed development, which was purely residential, ignored the BDB; however, it was claimed that a possible future second phase, including land south of the present application (some of which was owned by Blakes) would include some commercial units.

Two evening exhibitions of this scheme at the pre-planning stage had been held, with more than 50 people attending. Several neighbours of the proposed scheme, residents ofPitt Street, expressed concerns about overshadowing and loss of daylight. The developers said that the development had been prepared in accordance with strict technical standards and had met all requirements.

One objector suggested that a 3D model should be provided to enable a clearer understanding of the building heights.  A further objection was that the blocks were too homogenized in design, with little scope for visionary architecture.