Chapter 2: Consultation and Representations
1.9 The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency's (SEPA's) initial response to this application on 22 June 2020 confirmed that it was unable to advise in respect of the proposal under the terms of its Planning Information Note 4: SEPA position on development protected by a Flood Protection Scheme (PIN4) until the conclusion of an on-going project to analyse the standard of protection that is provided by the Water of Leith Flood Protection Scheme (WoLFPS).
1.10 On 9 July 2020, having been asked by the council to reach a conclusion either in support of, or in opposition to, the proposal, SEPA confirmed that its position should be regarded as an objection on grounds of flood risk due to general uncertainties in relation to the hydrology of the catchment and design flows.
1.11 In the same response, SEPA advised that a consultant was undertaking a hydrology and hydraulic modelling flood study of the Water of Leith - the first detailed study through the city of Edinburgh since the completion of Phases 1 and 2 of the WoLFPS. From this, SEPA hopes to have a better understanding of the hydrology of the catchment and the standard of protection provided by the built flood protection scheme, which can differ from its original design specification. However, as the application site is upstream of the WoLFPS it is not protected by the scheme and SEPA's concerns over flood risk do not relate to the absence of this anticipated report.
1.12 I asked SEPA to provide more detail on its flood risk objection and to respond to submissions from the applicant and council on the relative vulnerability of the existing and proposed uses. Its ability to engage with the proposal has been significantly hampered by having no access to its electronic files following a cyber-attack last year. Essentially it had to respond to the proposal afresh. In addition, its policy on certain forms of flood plain development is about to be revised and it has reconsidered the proposal on the basis of this revised policy. As a result, it has now confirmed that it has no objection to the proposals.
1.13 I discuss SEPA's responses in Chapter 4 of this report.
1.14 The Water of Leith Conservation Trust strongly objects to the proposal on flood risk grounds. It notes that the applicant accepts that the basement of the proposed building would flood in a 1 in 200 year event. It does not consider that development should be permitted on land that is known to be at risk of flooding. It is also dissatisfied with the height of the building, being much taller than the structure it would replace. It fears the building would loom over the river and walkway, reducing its natural feel, and could cause light pollution to the detriment of wildlife. It refers to council guidance that specifies a 15 metre set-back from the river.
1.15 The council's flood prevention team initially asked the applicant to demonstrate that the proposals would not increase flood risk to other properties and that by allowing the basement to flood, no flood plain storage would be lost. It also requested that the flood risk assessment and surface water management proposals be checked by an independent consultant. Upon receipt of an independent check, the team confirmed it was satisfied with the proposals.
1.16 The council's housing management and development team notes that the eight proposed affordable two-bedroom flats would exceed the 25% requirement in LDP Policy Hou 6 and are acceptable. These should be secured by a planning obligation and the council's preferred tenure would be social rented.
1.17 The roads authority has no objections to the proposal subject to a developer contribution of £2000 towards the cost of an order restricting waiting and loading in Stenhouse Mill Wynd, the provision of continuous footways across the site frontages and a travel plan aimed at encouraging more sustainable modes of travel by future residents.
1.18 The council's archaeologist confirms that the site lies directly opposite the category A listed Stenhouse Mills and appears to have been associated with that building in the past. As such, it should be regarded as having archaeological importance, both in terms of the late-medieval and post-medieval development of Stenhouse Mills and also Edinburgh's rural industrial heritage. The site has already been significantly disturbed by existing buildings. However, outside the area of the existing basement, archaeological remains may survive. Accordingly, a condition should be attached to any permission requiring a pre-development archaeological investigation.
1.19 Scottish Water has no objections to the proposal.
1.20 The council's waste and cleansing services team has no objections.
1.21 The council's environmental protection team has no objections from the noise perspective, subject to conditions securing appropriate construction details. As the site lies within an air quality management area (AQMA), significant mitigation will need to be incorporated within the scheme to reduce emissions. In this regard, it welcomes the proposed provision of electric vehicle charging points within the parking area, the proposed cycle parking and the use of an electric heating system.
1.22 An objection has been received on behalf of the owner of adjacent land to the south. This raises concern that the proposal would sterilise the development potential of that adjacent land, contrary to the aims of LDP Policy Des 2. This is due to the proximity of proposed buildings to the boundary and the inclusion of windows in the development that would overlook the adjacent site.