National charity dedicated to meeting the challenges of visual impairment – Sight Scotland – and property developer – S Harrison – Developments have jointly submitted a planning application to redevelop the site of the charity’s former HQ on Gillespie Crescent in Edinburgh into student homes.
The funds released by the sale of the site will enable Sight Scotland to further expand its reach and support even more people living with sight loss within existing services such as the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh. It will also provide future services for the city as well as expanding its ability to fund medical research to tackle the root causes of sight loss.
Sight Scotland occupied the building for nearly a century and continue to repair and maintain it, despite vacating the building early in 2021 as it was no longer fit for purpose – prior to taking the decision to sell it. Staff were relocated to modern, open plan offices in Gorgie, suited to current working requirements that allowed them to work alongside the Scottish Braille Press Service.
“We are in a housing crisis, with a need for all types of housing. Demand for student accommodation greatly outstrips supply, and this is placing significant pressure on traditional family housing stock, with students occupying homes that would in many cases have previously been occupied by families. This proposed development on a brownfield site, if approved, will respond to this increasing demand, housing students in a central location with easy access by active travel and public transport to universities and delivering significant investment into the local community.”Spokesperson, S Harrison Developments
The new proposals include demolition of the existing vacant building – replacing it with purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). The scheme will deliver 145 bedrooms with amenities including a cinema/multimedia room and gym. There will also be 100% cycle parking provision.
The sustainable development will feature green roofs, solar panels, air source heat pumps (ASHP), a rain garden and permeable paving. A shared, publicly accessible green space will offer an area in front of the building for people to walk, sit and rest – and provides the opportunity for social interaction of different groups within the community. The existing trees will also be retained.
“The funds released by the sale of the site, if consented, will enable us to further expand our reach, and support even more people living with visual impairments within existing services such as the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh. It will also allow us to provide new future services for the city, as well as expanding our ability to fund medical research to tackle the root causes of sight loss.”Davina Shiell, Director of Marketing, Communications and Engagement, Sight Scotland
The PBSA development will serve to address a well-recognised shortfall in student accommodation in the city, with a student homelessness crisis recognised by the Council in June 2023.
Between 2016/17 and 2021/22, student numbers in the city have increased by over 25%, from 53,845 to 67,355. The University of Edinburgh saw numbers increase by 27% and Napier University by 29% over this period.
The delivery of PBSA has the potential to free up such housing, or at the minimum provide accommodation for students who would have gone into these homes. This approach is supported by the Council’s planning guidance.