‘People before profit’: Campaigners celebrate victory over Edinburgh Scotmid development

Scotmid this week withdrew their application for a student housing and retail project following over a hundred objections from local residents

  • Scotmid application for new development withdrawn days before an assessment by Edinburgh Council
  • Campaigners frustrated by plans for student housing and a retail outlet, instead of social or affordable housing
  • Independent councillor Ashley Graczyk says “the voice of local people in Gorgie-Dalry has now been heard loud and clear”

CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed news that the application by Scotmid for a controversial Edinburgh development has been withdrawn in the wake of objections from the community.

Just days before a scheduled assessment by the City of Edinburgh Council’s Planning Development Sub-Committee, Scotmid withdrew their application for the proposed development – which would have comprised student residences and a new retail outlet – after 131 objections from local residents.

The campaign against the development, led by the Edinburgh South West branch of Common Weal, cited concerns from those living in the capital’s Gorgie area that the planned construction would lead to significantly reduced daylight and sunlight to adjacent flats, issues of privacy and inappropriate massing, as well as frustrations that student accommodation was being put forward rather than social or affordable housing.

Additional concerns were raised following a report in the Edinburgh Evening News that Scotmid had sought to influence the planning process, after it emerged that half of the registered comments in support of the scheme were identified as coming from Scotmid staff.

READ MORE: Councillor demands Planning Bill that ‘puts communities first’ amidst Edinburgh overdevelopment protests

While the Gorgie-Dalry Community Council had originally been supportive of the developer’s bid, complaints from local residents led to a special meeting to review their letter of support for the project, which was criticised as “completely unrepresentative” by some in the community. However, the council again voted for it, despite what campaigners have described as “overwhelming” local opposition.

Common Weal Edinburgh South West co-organiser, Jessica Clack, outlined local residents’ concerns: “We recently co-hosted a community consultation and one of the primary concerns local people raised was that they don’t feel they have any influence on decisions directly affecting them. This is also highlighted by the recent Edinburgh People Survey where Sighthill-Gorgie was the most dissatisfied ward in terms of the Council management of the city and having a say on local issues and services.

“We believe in ‘people before profit’ as part of a responsible planning process and we organised this campaign to ensure that the views of local residents were not ignored.”

Independent councillor for Sighthill-Gorgie, Ashley Graczyk, supported the community campaign and explained the strength of feeling in the ward: “I have had a constant stream of emails from constituents in recent months strongly objecting to this proposal due to the very negative impact it would have on their family homes. They have also felt inadequately represented at a local level throughout this process.

“As the only Councillor in the ward prepared to oppose this development, I am pleased that the voice of local people in Gorgie-Dalry has now been heard loud and clear.”

Graczyk and Edinburgh Common Weal have also campaigned against a number of other proposed bids, which they argue are examples of overdevelopment which would have negative repercussions on the area.

Earlier this month, Graczyk called on the Scottish Parliament to bring forward a “proper” Planning Bill that would put communities first and prioritise the needs of local people over big business.

Picture courtesy of the office of Cllr Ashley Graczyk

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