SoCo plans branded ‘dull’

An artist's impression of the Cowgate site
An artist's impression of the Cowgate site
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New images showing how an Old Town gap site will be transformed into a vibrant hub featuring a hotel, shops, restaurants and offices have been branded “underwhelming and dull” by heritage groups and architects.

Developers Janson Property and Whiteburn have lodged plans for the site showing how the 259-bedroom Ibis Hotel will fit beside shops, restaurants and cafes on South Bridge and the Cowgate.

Another view of the Cowgate site

Another view of the Cowgate site

The images show how the SoCo site, which has been empty since the 2002 Old Town fire, will become a new community featuring an outdoor courtyard that will allow for al fresco dining.

But award-winning architect Malcolm Fraser and the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh’s leading heritage group, are both urging councillors to reject the plans, which have been drawn up by ICA Architects – the same company that designed the Holiday Inn Express on the Cowgate.

Mr Fraser, who designed the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile, said: “It is trying hard to be dull, so as not to scare anyone – to be a little bit traditional, a little bit modern and get just enough ticks in the boxes to be reluctantly waved through.

“But this is exactly what all these people who say they care about the health and beauty of the city have been telling us we are not to accept. This is Edinburgh – underwhelming and dull is just not good enough.

“This is the same lot that put up that dreadful Holiday Inn further down the Cowgate. Our politicians and planners have been telling us we are to demand better and I look forward to them delivering on this.”

Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, added: “It is very uninspiring. It is a very important site as it knits the area and it is in the world heritage site as well.

“I have a horrible feeling that this will be another Hotel Missoni – just a big lump of pale stone.”

The designs include a glazed link between the South Bridge and Cowgate buildings. Developers will also be in discussion with businesses that could occupy three commercial units on the Cowgate and two on South Bridge. The development will also see the return of La Belle Angele nightclub.

Andy Jansons, of Jansons Property, said: “We are delighted to finally be at the stage of submitting our proposals.

“We have been hugely encouraged by the response from residents, businesses, the local community and stakeholders which has been overwhelmingly positive, with even previous critics welcoming the designs.”

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