NATIONAL charity Sight Scotland and property developer S Harrison Developments have jointly submitted a planning application to redevelop the site of the charity’s former headquarters on Gillespie Crescent in Edinburgh. The proposed project aims to transform the site into purpose-built student accommodation, addressing the city’s significant shortage of student housing while enabling Sight Scotland to expand its support services for people living with visual impairments.
“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,” said Davina Shiell, Director of Marketing, Communications, and Engagement for Sight Scotland. “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.”
Sight Scotland, which occupied the building for nearly a century, vacated it in early 2021 as it was no longer fit for purpose. The redevelopment plans include the demolition of the existing vacant building and the construction of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) comprising 145 bedrooms. Additional amenities, including a cinema/multimedia room and a gym, are also part of the proposed project. The development will prioritise sustainability with features such as green roofs, solar panels, air source heat pumps (ASHP), a rain garden, and permeable paving.
“A shared, publicly accessible amenity green space will offer an area in front of the building for people to walk, sit, and rest, providing the opportunity for social interaction among different groups within the community,” stated a spokesperson for S Harrison Developments.
The proposed PBSA aims to address the city’s well-recognized shortfall in student accommodation. The rising student numbers in Edinburgh have created pressure on traditional family housing stock, with students occupying homes that were previously intended for families. By providing dedicated student accommodation, the project aims to alleviate this pressure, freeing up traditional housing stock and ensuring students have access to suitable living spaces.
“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,” emphasised a spokesperson for S Harrison Developments. “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.”
The collaborative effort between Sight Scotland and S Harrison Developments exemplifies a sustainable approach to addressing the housing crisis in Edinburgh while simultaneously supporting the charity’s mission to assist individuals with visual impairments.