HERITAGE campaigners have given the thumbs-up to plans to redevelop the BHS store in Princes Street.
Developers want to revamp the shopping space, convert the upper floors into a hotel and create a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of the Old Town.
The £50 million scheme would also involve demolition of the Rose Street extension to the store and construction of a new building with two ground-floor restaurants or retail units and the hotel entrance.
The current store is closing down after BHS went into administration and no one could be found to take on the lease.
Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, said the proposals for the B-listed 1960s building looked promising.
She said: “It’s very sad for all the BHS workers and we’re sorry this has happened.
“But it’s good to know that when a building is about to fall empty someone has an idea for it so we’re not going to have a large space in Princes Street lying vacant.
“They’re not talking about demolition, which is hugely reassuring. This is a listed building and we don’t like to see listed buildings messed around, but you have to be pragmatic in these instances – you can’t leave buildings empty.
“I’m very positive about what I have seen so far. They are being sensitive to the needs of the site.”
Ms Williams also praised plans to make the most of the “spectacular” views of the iconic skyline from Arthur’s Seat to the Castle.
“It has one of the most fantastic vistas across the Old Town,” she said.
“When Primark was being built we said to them, please have a bar or something so people can look out at the view, but they said no, they wanted people to be shopping, not gazing out the window.
“So it’s good the public will be able to go and have a coffee and look at the staggering views.”
She said the back of BHS opened onto one of the “least attractive” parts of Rose Street, but the plan for the hotel entrance to front onto Rose Street was “a plus” and could lead to that section of the street being spruced up.
LaSalle Investment Management, which is spearheading the project on behalf of site owners the British Coal Pension Fund, have lodged a pre-application notification with the city council.
They hope to submit a planning application early next year and say the development should be completed by 2019.
The council has previously said it wants to see more varied use of premises on Princes Street, including restaurants and bars.
And it is keen for the upper floors of buildings – often no longer needed by shops for storage – to be brought back into use.
City Centre Conservative councillor Joanna Mowat welcomed the prospect of a major investment in Princes Street.
She told the Evening News: “If they are going to bring forward plans which look to make better use of that space, that’s what is indicated in planning policy. I will wait to see the details.”
Meanwhile, the BHS stores at Cameron Toll, Ocean Terminal and Livingston are to close on July 30, the company has announced.