In March 2018, Leith Central Community Council agreed to ask City of Edinburgh Council to answer concerns that have arisen from the sale, planning process and subsequent handling of the former Broughton High School building in McDonald Road. We wrote to the Chief Executive, seeing that the issues cut across several directorates – planning, transport, property, education.
Below, we reproduce the initial enquiry and the answers received to date – with more answers to come. The decision by the ‘Scottish Executive Inquiry Reporters Unit’ (better known as Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals) referred to below can be found here: Notice of Intention – dated 25 March 2014 and Decision Notice – dated 18 August 2014.
154 McDonald Road (‘Kingsford Residence: McDonald Road | Luxury Apartments for Rent’)
18 March 2018
Dear Andrew Kerr
I am writing to you to convey Leith Central Community Council’s concerns about the reality of the residential development at the above address, immediately next to a primary school.
While the development is just outside the LCCC area, it impacts on LCCC residents’ children attending the primary school and the lack of onsite parking will increase the pressure on the adjacent non-controlled parking zone in the LCCC area.
The concerns about the built reality stem from two disappointed expectations:
- a) the that the development would achieve a high degree of privacy – both for residents whose private accommodation is visible from the school yard, and for the children overlooked from said accommodation
- b) that the sale and conversion of a Council owned asset would result in much-needed accommodation for key workers
It seems, both these expectations – raised during the planning process and at least partially codified in the resulting planning permission – are unlikely to to be fulfilled by the developer, judging from a series of meetings and contacts with the developer toward the end of last year; in particular:
- the lack of onsite parking may be acceptable in the context of key worker occupation; but not for high-end serviced residences, as currently planned by the developer
- the proposed screening method on windows overlooking the school yard will not solve the privacy concerns
We therefore ask you as Chief Executive, because this clearly cuts across a number of Council directorates (planning, transport, property, education), to ensure that:
- existing residents of nearby properties have input into the proposed code of conduct for residents of the new development.
- parents of the primary school have input into marketing material for the development.
- CEC and the developer provide full details (location, dates, number and type of units) of the “offsite” affordable housing being built to compensate for the absence of an onsite affordable quota
- given that the flats are small but very expensive to rent and are likely to attract only transient occupants, CEC and the developer to devise suitable measures to compensate for the negative impact on community strength and cohesion while increasing density.
- CEC investigate the circumstances that allowed a public asset to be sold for private gain at what seems a very low price without commensurate public benefits (key workers), and in particular whether future educational needs (eg Gaelic Secondary School) were taken fully into account
We note that it would seem that the developers as their own letting agents will require a letting license. Please advise if this may be an opportunity to remind the developer that some of the above requests require their full co-operation.
I look forward to your full response and thank you in anticipation.
Leith Central Community Council
10 April 2018
Dear Mr Tobermann
Please accept my sincere apologies that you have not received a response to your original emails. I have asked the Planning department to look into this matter urgently.
Mirka Vybiralova | Executive Assistant to Chief Executive/ Head of Communications | Executive Support | Customer | Resources | The City of Edinburgh Council
From: Harald Tobermann, LCCC
Sent: 10 April 2018 08:28
Subject: Re: 154 McDonald Road (“Kingsford Residence: McDonald Road | Luxury Apartments for Rent”)
Dear Andrew Kerr
I refer to our email of 18 March below. We were hoping to be able to note at least a partial response at our forthcoming meeting on 16 April 2018. Please advise when you expect to be able to reply.
Thanking you in anticipation.
11 April 2018
Dear Mirka Vybiralova
we wrote to the Chief Executive because this issue is complex and cuts across several directorates (planning, transport, property, education), not just planning (and enforcement!) or we would have written to David Leslie.
Please ensure that Andrew Kerr sees our email on his return and let us know when we can expect a reply, which acknowledges the complexity of the issues involved and may indicate when we may receive a full response within a reasonable timescale.
Thanking you in anticipation.
154 McDonald Rd planning ref 13/02458/FUL, appeal ref PPO-230-2109
13 April 2018
Dear Mr Tobermann
We apologise for the delay in response and also that the response herein can only be deemed a partial response to the several points raised. We hope to get a further response to you on the sales aspects as soon as we can.
As regards the planning aspects, the application was presented to Committee in November 2013 and was at that point REFUSED due to:
Lack of housing mix; lack of amenity; lack of open space; lack of car parking and incompatibility with the adjacent school use.
However, the application was appealed prior to the decision issue being produced, therefore (technically) was appealed on non-determination. The application was thereafter in the hands of the Scottish Executive Inquiry Reporters Unit. They gave a Notice of Intention to allow the appeal in March 2014. The logic of their conclusion may be read in full as the document is visible on the public portal attached to the application. The reporter further requested a s.75 to cover in particular affordable housing issues. The reporter agreed the wording of this agreement and the final decision was issued by SEIRU on 18 August 2014. This is also visible on-line. Legal agreements are not publicly visible.
Issues relating to “code of conduct” and “input to marketing” go beyond the scope of the planning system.
In relation to “privacy issues” our own policy concerns look solely at privacy TO the incoming residents in this instance, and there are no policies which consider “privacy” of children in a school playground. It must also be remembered that the former use of the building as an office, had a more intense usage during school hours, and would therefore create a larger “problem” by your definition.
Short of demolishing the existing building there was also no means by which to create on-site car-parking. Lack of parking was therefore unable to be addressed. However, again it must be noted that were the existing building to have continued in office use this would have created an equal “problem”. Current Council policies also seek to discourage parking and car-ownership where-ever possible.
Stephen Dickson| Senior Planner,Local Developments and Listed Buildings (East)|Planning and Building Standards| Services for Communities| The City of Edinburgh Council