I wish to object strongly to the proposed development 15/05401/ful. Although the site would be not inappropriate for a small scale housing development, I consider the proposals as they stand to be a gross over-development of the site and have listed my concerns below:
Ecology and Wildlife The area known as The Dells just upstream of the proposed development is a beautiful area of ancient woodland, full of wildlife and historic interest. In recent years work has been done to make it into a Local Nature Reserve, a status that it well deserves, given its importance for wildlife. It would be entirely inapppropriate to build a five storey accommodation block at the entrance to the Dells. Allowing such a development would mean the council does not value this vital greenspace.
The area is home to over 60 species of bird and mammal including roe deer, otters, bats, badgers and kingfishers. Over 130 species of wildflower grow in the Dells as well as many ancient trees. It is also home to an interesting range of fungi, lower plants, insects and other invertebrates. The area is frequently used by otters, which are protected by European law. The site is also very important for bats, also protected by European law, which roost in the viaduct near the Visitor Centre and in the Dells. The increased light and noise which would emanate from the proposed development would disturb the foraging behaviour of the bats and so impact on their survival. Kingfishers are regularly seen along this section of the river. Kingfishers are amber listed in the UK (which means they are of conservation concern) and feature on the City of Edinburgh Council's Biodiversity Action Plan of species of particular conservation concern in and around the city. Kingfishers are “vulnerable to ….habitat degradation through pollution or unsympathetic management of watercourses” (see the RSPB website https://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/k/kingfisher/index.aspx). Grey wagtails are also frequently seen along this stretch of river, a species which has just been added to the red list in the UK, which means it is of particular conservation concern. Song thrushes (red listed in the UK), bullfinches (amber listed) and swifts (amber listed) are often seen in the area, all of which are included in the Edinburgh Biodiversity Action Plan. Sparrowhawks (which are listed in the Edinburgh City Biodiversity Action plan, though they are currently green listed in the UK) nest in the area. Great spotted woodpeckers (again green listed but included in the Edinburgh Biodiversity Action Plan) are regularly heard and seen in the area in springtime. (The red, amber and green listing is explained on the RSPB website here https://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/status_explained.aspx The Edinburgh Local Biodiversity Action Plan can be accessed from this page of the council's website http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/biodiversity.)
I have personally seen all the above mentioned species in the area. The Water of Leith Conservation Trust holds detailed records of sightings of these species (and others) along this stretch of river. It is likely that The Wildlife Information Centre for Lothians and Borders (http://www.wildlifeinformation.co.uk/) holds further records for the area as may also Scottish Ornithologists Club (http://www.the-soc.org.uk/) Edinburgh Natural History Society (http://www.edinburghnaturalhistorysociety.org.uk/) and other organisations. It is to be hoped that such organisations will be consulted about the ecology and natural history of the area, before any decisions are made relating to any development of this site.
Streetscape and amenity
The character of this part of Slateford would change entirely if this development goes ahead, as it would be to a much larger scale than the surrounding buildings. The development would make the area more urban in character, obscuring the views of the river and and breaking the visual continuity of the river valley. It would also be a shame to lose the Blue Goose pub, which has the best beer garden in Edinburgh and is one of the few places to eat and drink in the local area.
Scale The Blue Goose pub is moderate in height and small in scale. The proposed development would have 5 times the footprint and stand at over twice the height of the existing building. The proposed development would overshadow both the river and the walkway, making the walkway very dark and enclosed, reducing its amenity value. The many windows of the development would also cast noise and light, disturbing the tranquillity of the riverside setting and walkway and having a negative effect on the bats in the area.
Parking The lack of on-site parking spaces included in the proposed development would present problems to local residents. There is not much ‘on street’ parking in the area and many students have cars and will need to park them somewhere, restricting the on-street parking for current residents.
Traffic The lack of parking and manoeuvring space within the developments will cause problems when students are moving in and out or when deliveries are being made. This will cause obstructions and delays on an already very congested road. It would also lead to increased levels of pollution in the area, potentially causing increased rates of respiratory illnesses.
Anti social behaviour Bringing 250 extra residents into the area, would increase the potential for littering, loud music and vandalism. There would be increased pressure on the sidepath through the Dells, which students would naturally use as a short cut to Napier University, either on foot or by bike.
In principle I would be happy for a small scale housing development on the site, if it took account of the surrounding natural environment and included for example bat boxes and swift nest boxes. However, the proposal as it stands is inapppropriate and too large in scale.