‘Creeping demolition’ of East End slammed

One of the threatened buildings in West Register Street. Picture: Neil Hanna

One of the threatened buildings in West Register Street. Picture: Neil Hanna

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Heritage groups have condemned plans to demolish buildings in the city centre to make way for a £60 million redevelopment.

Proposals for a regeneration project – unveiled last month – include pulling down an 1850s category B-listed Victorian tenement and modernist 1960s buildings, as well as plans to retain only the facade of a B-listed Venetian Gothic structure.

The project, put forward by developer Chris Stewart Group, is part of wider blueprints to redevelop the area around the south-east corner of St ­Andrew Square and West Register Street – focusing on the former Royal Bank of Scotland offices.

The A-listed building on the Square – built in 1942 and once the seat of the Capital’s financial sector – has lain empty for almost nine years and is set to be transformed into restaurants or shops, with its art deco banking hall fully restored.

But campaigners today criticised the developers over proposals to knock down three buildings on West Register Street and South St Andrew Street, near the former banking hub. Marion Williams, ­director of heritage group The Cockburn Association, said the group had made clear its ­objections to the plans.

She said: “Buildings are listed for a reason and we are seeing so many listed buildings knocked down in this area. These buildings have got character and they belong there. This is a problem in Edinburgh in general – you get to the point where there’s no point in listing them if it doesn’t mean anything. They are ­demolishing this listed building and putting up yet more bland sandstone and glass.”

The proposals for the area – which are still open to consultation – are to be submitted to the council by the beginning of March. But Tom Parnell, cases panel secretary for the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, said the plans were part of “creeping demolition”.

He said: “We are losing one listed building and the integrity of another listed building [by reducing it to a facade].

“The Venetian building is the most important building on the site, and the fact that they are not proposing to demolish it and are planning to retain the facade is a step in the right direction.

“But it’s a good developer – he’s very committed to the city – so we are hopeful we will end up with a scheme that’s good.”

Chris Stewart, chief executive of the Chris Stewart Group, said: “We are retaining and restoring all of the important listed buildings and are proposing a demolition of a connected building. We are working with the city council and an independent architectural historian who has confirmed the proposed building has no architectural or historical significance.

“The demolition is critical to the overall development of the site, improvements to the public realm and wider economic benefits to the city.”