Union Canal ‘floating hotels’ scheme defeats council and objectors

The urban canal site now earmarked for five floating hotels.
The urban canal site now earmarked for five floating hotels.

A plan to berth five floating hotels on the Union Canal opposite a prestigious school has won the go-ahead from a controversial appeal decision.

The move overturns a previous knock-back for a scheme originally rejected by an Edinburgh council sub-committee, and could - by having set a precedent - impact on future planning bids in Falkirk and other canal-side towns.

The Edinburgh Evening News reports that almost 300 people objected to the Scandinavian-style “boatels” plan, amid arguments that Boroughmuir High pupils could be prevented from using the nearby canalside for sport and recreation.

But in a key ruling, Karen Heywood, the Scottish Government’s assistant chief reporter, said the plan “accords overall with the relevant provisions of the development plan and that there are no material considerations which would justify a refusal of planning permission”.

She added that Scottish Canals, the navigation authority acting on behalf of the Scottish Government, has highlighted that the “primary function of the canal is for powered licensed craft for leisure use” and that all other uses, including that of the school “are subordinate”.

She added: “To my mind, it would be extremely foolish to disregard the advice of the official body charged with access and safety.

“I conclude that the hotel boats would comply with policy as they would provide an attractive frontage to the canal, maintain public access along the canal side and the canal itself, and although they would prevent access to the canal by the school’s canoe club such access should not be encouraged in this location.”

The council’s canals champion, Councillor Gavin Corbett, said the Scottish Goverment and Scottish Canals should “hang their heads in shame”.

He said: “When Boroughmuir High School was built by the canal, there was genuine enthusiasm for the school having a real interaction with the canal rather than it just being a pretty backdrop.

“Now, access to the water will be blocked off by a line of holiday boats right outside the school door. What next? A caravan park outside every primary school?”

However the Edinburgh Boatel company says floating hotels will “complement recreational use of the canal and protect the amenity of the area”.

It argues the scheme will also maximise commercial gain for Scottish Canals while generating extra revenue for nearby businesses.