Does Leith Links really need more hotel rooms, and why are local hotels doubling in size?

Planning matters

Below is a brief summary of an issue that is of serious concern in our area. You can click through to read the article in full, and please feed back any views and comments that you may have, either via the Comments facility below, or via

Does Leith Links really need more hotel rooms, and why are local hotels doubling in size?

A particular issue is arising repeatedly these days – that is, hotels around Leith Links are applying for – and usually getting – permission to double their capacity.

The Council has announced a ‘Housing Emergency’. But no recent planning applications in our area have been for actual homes. Most of the recent planning proposals concern changes to existing buildings especially those used as hotels/guest houses/HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation).

This is significantly changing the ‘mix’ of population in the area. A series of applications have come forward for hotel/guest house premises around Leith Links to greatly expand their capacity – potentially doubling in capacity – through extensions to the premises. The References section in the full article highlights Street, Links Gardens and Johns Place

So – is it just being ‘NIMBY’ for locals to object? After all, Edinburgh is a tourist city, and Leith is a great place, so Leith should welcome more visitors to spend money in the local bars and restaurants, right?

But looking closer, these are not proposals driven by tourist demand/money. The local hotels and guest houses seeking expansion in recent years are operating in the City of Edinburgh Council’s created market of supplying so-called ‘bed and breakfast’ or temporary accommodation for homeless people.

We need homes, not ‘hotel’ rooms
Edinburgh does indeed face serious challenges of supply and affordability of housing. But as demand increases, the only things that seem to be increasing in supply are purpose-built student accommodation and hotels of various kinds. Our city needs homes, not hotel rooms. In February, the Council said that of the c.5,000 homeless households, 1,203 households were being put up in bed and breakfast accommodation (usually unsatisfactory, especially for families) across the city. But at the same time, it also had more than1,500 Council-owned properties sitting empty – so-called ‘voids’ – needing repairs to bring them back into use. So, properties owned by the Council are empty, whilst the Council is paying literally millions of pounds to owners of bed and breakfasts/hotels. Is this good housing management – to own empty properties but pay for hotel rooms?

The average cost of providing temporary accommodation was £12,416 per annum per household which if multiplied by 4920 households is £61m per annum. Proprieters who specialise in providing accommodation to the Council can earn at least £12k per annum per room in one of their guest houses for someone who might, on average, stay 2 years. Mostly the accommodation has not even been vetted nor evaluated for value for money, as Councillors regularly approve ‘waivers’ from the obligation to put out to competitive tender. The ‘hotel’ proprietors are laughing all the way to the bank.

A bad situation
This situation is bad for the people being housed by the Council in unsatisfactory temporary accommodation for far too long. It’s bad for everyone who needs help with housing, especially social housing, as too many properties in this city lie empty and too much money is being spent on hotels and unsatisfactory accommodation. It’s bad for council tax payers who would prefer to see £61m per annum spent much more effectively. And it’s bad for the Leith Links area, where we are seeing a slow but steady creep of expanding hotels and guest houses – including some that take formerly residential premises that are entirely aimed at providing accommodation for homeless people, that may be poor quality for unfortunate resident, but highly profitable for the proprietor….


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