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Watkin Jones Group Unveils New Chesser Housing Development

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Watkin Jones Group (WJG) has unveiled a proposal for an new residential housing development at New Mart Road, Chesser.

WJG have proposed to redevelop land to the rear of the Corn Exchange, which includes the World of Football and World of Bowling buildings.

The proposed high-quality mixed-use brownfield development will comprise a majority of build-to-rent (BTR) homes, including affordable homes, in addition to which there will be managed student accommodation, forming a mixed-tenure urban residential village. Just 25% of the floorspace of the development will be for student accommodation.

This forms part of an overall regeneration of the brownfield site following the recent acquisition of the Corn Exchange building concert venue by the Academy Music Group, to be called the O2 Academy Edinburgh.

Completing the work in 2025, should planning permission be given, the regeneration of this brownfield site - formerly comprising a mix of listed and unlisted buildings originally used as an auction mart and livestock sheds - will seek to retain the character and elements of the buildings. This will ensure their long-term viable future, all of which is considered in the creation of community spaces and public realm within the proposed scheme.

The World of Football and World of Bowling have provided a suitable uses and adaptation of the former auction mart buildings and livestock sheds for over 22 years, however their condition currently requires considerable investment on an ongoing basis. 

To bring the buildings up to standard is a continual test, burden and cost for the business. Investment in recent state of the art facilities such as World of Football at Marine Drive show that they can provide far more viable spaces without the ongoing cost and environmental impact that old out of date buildings unfortunately provide.

The BTR apartments will comprise a mix of studios, one bedroom, two bedroom and three-bedroom flats. Within the building it is proposed there are areas of communal amenity such as working from home and study space, a communal lounge, exercise facilities, management suite and reception, bike storage and large shared kitchen.

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Student bed spaces are proposed as a mix of studio and cluster rooms each with their own ensuite. This will also have a range of communal amenity spaces, bike storage, management suite and reception areas.

Reflecting the heritage of the site, a significant proportion of the former livestock shed frames will be retained and incorporated into the overall development. There will also be a variety of external high-quality communal spaces. The development is proposed as a car free scheme with parking limited to accessible parking only and maximising the good quality public transport and active travel links to the site. Each of the key areas of public realm and open space will be given an identity as part of the overall masterplan, reflecting the history of the site, including a large central public square. This will form a connection between the proposed development and the O2 Academy Edinburgh

It is envisaged that the public square will be used by performing arts groups; farmers markets; leisure square gatherings and as an urban gathering space for residents.

The central square is adjacent to a series of smaller walled gardens and routes that link the more private series of residential courtyards. These smaller courtyards are connected by a grouping of pends, footpaths and tree lined boulevards.

The developer has formally submitted a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) to City of Edinburgh Council, informing it that it intends to submit a planning application for the development following a minimum 12-week consultation period.

Watkin Jones Group has undertaken major BTR schemes throughout the UK, completing its first purpose-built scheme in Leeds in 2016.

It has extensive experience of working in Edinburgh, investing extensively in the city over the last 10 years. Over the period it has developed a total of ten purpose-built student accommodation schemes, equating to 2,861 student homes.

A notable example is the award-winning Sugarhouse Close development, which was completed in the summer of 2012. The development is accessed from the Royal Mile and located within the World Heritage Site, demonstrating that the Group have first-hand experience delivering a high-quality scheme in a historically sensitive location.

Watkin Jones Group is also currently progressing a mixed tenure residential development at Iona Street in Edinburgh, for which planning permission was granted in March of this year. This development comprises over 200 managed student homes, 60 residential apartments and 20 affordable homes and will be completed in 2023. In addition, the Group is delivering 645 managed student homes on Westfield Road and Gorgie Road which will be completing in 2022.

Iain Smith, Planning Director for Watkin Jones, commented: "We're thrilled to be announcing our exciting scheme for this new urban quarter at Chesser, creating a thriving and diverse community as part of an overall redevelopment of the area. The site is in a highly sustainable location with excellent access to amenities and transport links and will be built to future-proofed high environmental standards.

"Maintaining the strong heritage of the site is a feature of the development and our intention is to retain the character of the buildings where we can, ensuring their long-term viable future, with the creation of some fantastic public squares, each with their own distinct identity.

"These proposals will greatly assist in the regeneration of this part of the city and we are consulting extensively to ensure that people from across the local area have an opportunity to input their views and shape our ambitious proposals."

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