Cathedral faces land grab action

An artist's impression of the new centre. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the new centre. Picture: contributed
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LAND belonging to the Capital’s main Roman Catholic cathedral is set to be “grabbed” as part of plans for the landmark £850 million revamp of the St James Shopping Centre.

A 113sq m plot next to St Mary’s Cathedral will be acquired under a wider 
compulsory purchase order (CPO) so the St James can be transformed into a shopping mecca capable of challenging Glasgow’s most famous ­precincts.

The existing “eyesore” building has been slated for demolition, with a new mall due to be erected at the east end of Princes Street by 2021.Detail of land to be taken from the cathedral is contained in the latest project update as ­developers and city leaders prepare for full-scale construction work.

It is not yet known whether the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, which officially owns the land, will object to the order.

As well as avenues of new shops, the St James Quarter development will see the creation of a swathe of premium office space, an apart-hotel, theatre and 138 flats with spectacular views.

City chiefs said they were working hard to buy all affected properties by agreement, adding that CPOs would only be imposed where necessary.

Councillor Frank Ross, economy leader, said: “This is a fantastic new development, which will transform the area at the east end of Princes Street. It will create thousands of permanent jobs and will add £25m to the Scottish economy each year.

“The developer is working hard to acquire all affected properties by agreement and to help businesses relocate where appropriate.

“They are keeping us closely informed of progress. Therefore, if approved by the Scottish Government, we will only use compulsory purchase powers where absolutely necessary.”

Staff at the cathedral today confirmed they had been notified of the purchase plans, which are set to be examined thoroughly amid ongoing ­negotiations.

A spokesman said: “The Archdiocese [of St Andrews and Edinburgh] is aware of the CPO and the matter will be considered by the trustees.”

An earlier version of the St James redevelopment ­included controversial proposals for a hotel directly in front of the cathedral, prompting ­concerns that “fine views” down Leith Walk would be permanently lost.

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com