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New Town townhouses to come full circle as housing

August 6 2021

New Town townhouses to come full circle as housing

Four A-listed New Town townhouses and an associated mews building are to be returned to residential use, undoing 20th-century alterations to create 34 apartments, none of which will be affordable.

Last in use by Brodies Solicitors the townhouses at 14-17 Atholl Crescent have been subject to extensive alterations, including replacement of the main stair at number 15 with a lift shaft, partition walls and insertion of a two-storey bridge link across the former garden.

CDA Architects have been instructed to undo much of this damage, removing non-original partitions and the link bridge, as well as reinstating the blocked entrance to number 16. Throughout this work surviving decorative features will be retained and repaired wherever possible such as iron trellis balconies.

In a design statement, CDA wrote: "The major works to the existing rear elevation of the townhouses will see the removal of an existing link bridge structure connecting the townhouses with the mews building. The removal of this structure will necessitate the reinstatement of stonework and the forming of new window openings to the rear facade. At lower ground floor level existing openings are proposed to be enlarged to allow for the installation of external doors providing access to the proposed duplex private gardens."

As part of the works larger window openings will be created to Atholl Crescent Lane as part of a general refurbishment of the existing mews elevation.

Ordinarily, 8 homes would be required to be classed as affordable but as there is no opportunity for an entire stair or building to be allocated for this purpose, coupled with high renovation costs, mean the development has been deemed unsuitable for affordable accommodation.


#1 Posted by Al on 6 Aug 2021 at 13:07 PM
'34 apartments, none of which will be affordable' - Edinburgh property market is getting a bit heated!
#2 Posted by FHM on 6 Aug 2021 at 13:33 PM
"Ordinarily, 8 homes would be required to be classed as affordable but as there is no opportunity for an entire stair or building to be allocated for this purpose..."

Ah, the old "poor door" situation has travels from London to Edinburgh. Pathetic excuse by developers seeking to create a rich ghetto to milk the profit cow dry.
#3 Posted by TepidMouse on 6 Aug 2021 at 13:51 PM
“None of which will be affordable.” An Edinburgh statement if ever I’ve heard one. What a wonderful thing, isn’t it fantastic to see our capital is providing for its citizens! Oh wait….
#4 Posted by Cadmonkey on 6 Aug 2021 at 14:01 PM
Site cost is declared at £8million.
If this is reduced then the affordable housing would be viable.
Howeverr has the developer made a tactical error by submitting an application for the whole, rather than 3 separate applications for 11 flats, thereby avoiding affordable issue altogether?
#5 Posted by Ken on 6 Aug 2021 at 14:59 PM
Affordable housing into Georgian townhouse apartment development?...interesting. Genuine question, has this been done before? can't think I recall a similar project over the magic 11.
#4 I doubt tactically splitting the development up into 3 parcels...with the same (or different) applicant(s) will be a successful enterprise.
Many AH dodging projects throughout the city but I don't think this example is entirely suitable as a vehicle for improving the situation. Listed building development is hardly one for the value engineer.
#6 Posted by Cadmonkey on 6 Aug 2021 at 16:21 PM
Look at the old Law Society offices on Drumsheugh Gardens. Think those offices were split into 3 separate applications, under separate companies, each under the AH threshold.
This application is seeking to avoid an affordable housing contribution, yet states a site value of £8m in the viability calculation to demonstrate it can’t afford to contribute. Why should the site owner pocket £8m whilst shirking the afffordable obligation all other developers are expected to meet?
#7 Posted by Zoltan on 6 Aug 2021 at 22:44 PM
Then guess what? the sites not worth £8M! Its only the developers problem if he's paid too much for it. If they cant make it work in a residential market like Edinburgh just now, take the haircut and move it on to someone who actually does a site appraisal BEFORE buying the site, and offers the actual land value. Given they were buying an existing building, its not like they didnt have an idea of the quantum of development achievable. Tbf you've got to admire their chutzpah but planners stand firm against these cowboys
#8 Posted by Daniel on 9 Aug 2021 at 09:28 AM
Is it worth pointing out that "poor doors" and separate blocks/properties are often a requirement of affordable housing providers?

Also it's pretty naïve to think that if this developer had bid lower, they would've still got the site. Someone else would've bid £8m and the situation would be the same.
Pointing out
#9 Posted by Pointing out on 9 Aug 2021 at 10:29 AM
I feel its important to note that whilst they may not be providing it on site, they will not get away with making no sort of affordable housing contribution. They will probably make a payment which is pretty common for listed buildings due to the level of financial investment and maintenance.

As for the so called "poor door", it's normally a requirement of RSL that the properties are grouped together as it makes maintenance costs easier to manage.
#10 Posted by UR on 9 Aug 2021 at 10:56 AM
@9 - the applicant is to request exemption from any payments in lieu.

"The Applicant will submit a Financial Viability Assessment under separate cover,
which demonstrates that a commuted sum payment is not feasible on this project having regard to the Category A listing and high conversion costs."
#11 Posted by Cadmonkey on 9 Aug 2021 at 11:35 AM
Lets not beat about the bush here.
The existing rear contemporary block would be entirely appropriate for affordable housing and a decent architect could easily design this.
(Although privacy distances to the period townhouses look dodgy).
This all comes down to the site value being overcooked in the financial appraisal, and planners should see straight through this.
#12 Posted by Malandro1966 on 9 Aug 2021 at 12:03 PM
The site value here may be underpinned by the existing use as offices and there may have been other bidders for that use. However, if you are seeking a change of use as is happening here, you should factor in policy compliance re affordable housing and developer contributions. If that means that the residual value is less than a competing bid for offices then so be it. As this application has yet to be assessed, it looks like they may have had an initial chat with planners to get agreement that on-site provision of affordable housing wasn't suitable or viable subject to a viability appraisal regarding the provision of a commuted sum in lieu. I've no doubt the conversion costs will be high but the commuted payment for 8 units is likely to be no more than £500,000 so I would hope that the planners instruct someone to critically review the developers appraisal on their behalf.
#13 Posted by Millek on 10 Aug 2021 at 18:19 PM
Where does it say in the capitalism rule book that a company has a right to make a profit. If they have paid too much for the site and it is unaffordable to develop while meeting their requirement to provide affordable housing, then tough! Charge more for the flats, or if they will not sell at a higher price don't develop it, or accept you are going to make a loss. Should not have made such a bad business decision in the first place.
#14 Posted by Daniel on 11 Aug 2021 at 11:27 AM
@13 - I don't know why this needs to be said, but policy is policy - it isn't law. It is not a "must", it is a "should", and it is designed in that way - to be flexible, to allow schemes to continue to come forward despite varying circumstances.
The Bairn
#15 Posted by The Bairn on 11 Aug 2021 at 15:19 PM
Lets face it guys would you find it appealing to choose to live beside affordable housing incumbents when you have just spent a large amount to purchase your dream Edinburgh townhouse...I wouldn't!! I prefer not to be the victim or witness of the next drive-by shooting or assassination attempt by jealous neds.
#16 Posted by CADMonkey on 11 Aug 2021 at 16:05 PM
#15 The developer could offer to pay a commuted sum to keep the development "ned" free. But the developer is stating they cant afford to do even that, and are offering £zero.
Despite supposedly paying £8m for the site.
#17 Posted by Zoltan on 11 Aug 2021 at 16:38 PM
Pretty sure the flexibility in policy is not designed to dig a poor developer out of a hole - there is a viable scheme here of course, but at the right site value. There's a moratorium on affordable contributions in Aberdeen CC right now, to stimulate development in a depressed market and support city centre living enshrined within the masterplan - good use of 'flexibility' in policy.
Not same situation in Edinburgh CC right now - afraid you win some you lose some...
The Bairn
#18 Posted by The Bairn on 11 Aug 2021 at 19:37 PM
#16 - I acknowledge your point and agree that some cash in lieu of absent 'affordable housing' is the morally right thing to do in this instance.
IMHO rising house prices will surely compensate 'the developer' for all their efforts sooner or later,

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