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Councillors Green-light House for the Homeless

Cabinet members at Midlothian Council have approved plans to convert a former care home into a bed and breakfast for the homeless.

Midlothian Council’s plans to convert Pentland House into a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) for the homeless community, came before the cabinet on Tuesday 18 November, with members voting to green-light plans.

The move, which could see £400,000 of annual savings, will reduce the council’s dependency on private short term lets, instead housing up to 43 homeless community members in the born-again facility off Edinburgh Road. Midlothian Council say that those under the age of 35 who have been made homeless due to welfare reforms will be eligible for a place within the building.

Councillor Owen Thompson, cabinet member for housing, said:

I’d like to thank everyone for their contributions to this public consultation and I’m pleased that everyone has had a chance to have their say. These events were also useful in banishing the often negative stereotypes of homeless people, as we all know that homelessness can happen to anyone. Moving forward we plan to make the best possible use of these buildings to help some of the most vulnerable in our society.

A public consultation, conducted by the council over three days at the start of October, resulted in thirty-three letters of representation, ten of which came from the same person. Of these, many were related to the security and monitoring of the property. Midlothian Council reiterated that places would only be given to “low to medium risk” homeless community members, meaning that no places would be given to those with drug dependancies or a criminal record. They also added that a team would be onsite 24/7 to make sure that tenants have all the support they may need.

Director of Shelter Scotland, Graeme Brown, said:

At a time when household budgets are under huge pressure and people struggle to keep a roof over their heads, for some, the spectre of homelessness is closer than ever before. It’s important to remember that homelessness can happen to anyone.Our experience is that becoming homeless sends people’s lives into crisis and when it does happen, it is crucial that facilities and services are in place.  Safe and secure temporary accommodation can help people get back on their feet.
We welcome positive discussion within communities to find appropriate solutions to Scotland’s housing and homelessness challenges.

Pentland House ceased operating as a council operated care home in September 2013 after operations moved to a new 32 unit extra care housing development opened in Eastfield. The new facility, Cowan Court has since won numerous awards for its design. However Pentland House’s condition is somewhat different to that of Cowan Court, this condition having played a factor in the closure, after it failed to meet the Care Commision’s standards for operation as a care facility.

Whilst demolition was a motion being considered by the council, it is noted that the costs to demolish and construct new housing would not be viable and could result in only 28 places for homeless residents. Instead, a report put forth to the cabinet proposed a period of improvements to make the 43 bed property suitable for use as a HMO. These improvement costs are put at around £345,000 or £8,023 per head. Additionally eighteen staff members would be hired, six of whom would be onsite overnight. Staffing costs are placed at around £479,000 per annum. These put the first year costs at £824,000 or £19,000 per head, without electricity or maintenance fees. This would then decrease to £721k a year, with an annual deficit of £75,000, which the council says can be funded by a surplus at a proposed HMO in Mayfield.

However Midlothian Council have noted their other plans for the town and say other communities could benefit from the housing spend:

Housing need is high in Penicuik and three new build developments have already been completed as part of the Council’s new build programme, with a further 3 sites in Penicuik having received planning permission and 2 more sites being considered. This includes Cowan Court, the recently completed extra care housing development, and an approved Complex Care developmentConsequently, it is evident that there has been a significant level of new build affordable housing in Penicuik, and therefore not using this site for development would allow another community to benefit from housing investment at an alternative site in Midlothian.

Works to convert the building into the HMO will commence in Spring next year.

What’s you view? Do you agree with the proposals? Do you disagree? Tell us below, email us at or join the discussion of Facebook.