Poor mapping? Poor Planning? HMO & homelessness issues?

Increased pressure on Leith Central area is not welcome

Leith Central’s planning subcommittee (PSC) is probing whether Edinburgh Council is using inaccurate maps in its consultation on Edinburgh Planning Guidance: Student Housing – Issues Paper. The PSC has asked the Edinburgh Councillors for Leith Walk to investigate some potential errors in maps used in the consultation paper:

  • Map 1 (Operational student accommodation 2014) stops at (obscured) Picardy Place
  • Map 2b (Student concentration by data zone, 2011) shows different scale from map 2a (2001) which is used for comparison, and fails to take account of post-2011 changes (e.g. student accommodation in McDonald Rd and off Montgomery Street)
  • Map 3 (Student housing developments by number of beds and planning status since August 2010): Map extract is poorly chosen – it does not show all applications in the pipeline: Haddington Place, Shrubhill, Bothwell Street

LCCC does not want to delay matters, so it has asked for the maps to be amended without holding up the consultation.

There is a high correlation between the distribution of students (in the 2011 census) and the distribution of HMOs, according to Edinburgh Council’s own House in Multiple Occupation Market Review. The background to this is ‘transient pressure’ that might be created by HMOs being used as temporary housing for homeless people (including emergency cases, such as domestically abused women and their children; but also ex-prisoners). In Edinburgh, there are high densities of HMO properties in the Meadows and Bruntsfield links areas of the city, with notable concentrations at either end of the Marchmont area, Bruntsfield, Dalkeith Road, Leith Walk, the New Town and Pilrig.

LCCC is not against housing homeless people and does not cry ‘NIMBY!’ But it argues that its area is the mostly densely populated area of Scotland and any extra stress needs to be carefully assessed. If possible, it needs to be ameliorated or avoided, especially in the context of increased pressure on the dilapidated southern end of Leith Walk which may not be repaired for years to come. This dilapidation cannot be tolerated, in LCCC’s opinion.

Sheila Gilmore, Labour MP for Edinburgh East, has argued that Edinburgh Council may be taking an incorrect approach to limiting HMOs, noting that Dundee Council has adopted a policy that, in certain defined areas, more than 12·5 per cent of properties being HMOs is over-provision. Closer to home, Midlothian Council has approached homelessness/HMO issues by converting properties it already owns to house homeless people – and has saved money into the bargain.