Comment: St James debate will rage for some time

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one of the great joys of living in Edinburgh is the gorgeous views that hit you on almost every corner in some parts of the city.

Sometimes it is the beautiful skyline that can take your breath away; on other occasions it is the glimpses of something unexpected down an alley or around a corner.

The £850 million St James development is a golden opportunity to add to that great heritage. Tearing down the eyesore 1960s shopping centre, office block and hotel will create a rare chance for this generation to stamp its mark on the city centre landscape.

As we contemplate this, it would be hard to think of a starker warning of the dangers of getting it wrong than the old buildings that are set to be razed to the ground. Will the citizens of Edinburgh 50 years from now be saying good riddance to the St James Quarter as they in turn knock it down? If so, that would be a terrible failure.

The illustrations of the “cupcake” hotel which have been made public show why there is both considerable excitement and concern about major redevelopment in such a sensitive site.

There is potential here for a stylish addition to the city skyline that would give Edinburgh its own answer to London’s much-admired Gherkin building, a landmark that residents and tourists alike would enjoy viewing from the heights of Calton Hill. But will the new hotel loom too large over George Street and intrude on the elegant buildings of the New Town?

It is impossible to tell for sure from the artist’s impressions but this is something that will rightly be scrutinised and debated before any building work begins. It is true to say that the redeveloped site does look tightly packed, but with clever design it is still possible to make the new quarter dramatic and inspiring like parts of the Old Town.

The debate will rage on for some time. We can only hope that the end results fit in with their surroundings, but don’t become bland and uninspiring in the process.