Picture House superpub plan under fire

There will be no music at the venue if plans go ahead. Picture: Ian Georgeson
There will be no music at the venue if plans go ahead. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A GIANT superpub capable of holding up to 1000 revellers is set to replace one of the few music venues in the Capital.

The former Picture House on Lothian Road could become Edinburgh’s largest bar according to new plans submitted by pub chain JD Wetherspoon.

Over three levels, it could rival Cowgate landmark the Three Sisters as the Capital’s biggest boozer and eclipse mothballed proposals for a giant Waxy O’Connors pub with room for 910 drinkers in the Charlotte Baptist Chapel on Rose Street.

Wetherspoons has also confirmed there will be no live bands or entertainment at the venue, lowering the curtain on decades of musical history at the site.

Health professionals have condemned the plans which, they say, risk inflaming drink-fuelled antisocial behaviour.

NHS Lothian and Police Scotland have repeatedly warned against granting additional licences in the Old Town and Tollcross areas but their advice has often been ignored by several councillors on the licensing board.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said Edinburgh already faced “high levels of alcohol-related health and social harm” that cost the city more than £221 million per year.

“It would be a real cause for concern if a large capacity pub is opened in an area where there are already so many licensed premises,” she said.

“There is strong evidence to show that the more available alcohol is in an area, the more alcohol problems there will be. It’s up to local authorities to control alcohol availability to minimise the impact on health, crime and communities.”

Last year, the News revealed that while NHS Lothian formally objected to 19 applications in the past two years, licences were ultimately granted on every occasion.

City centre councillor Joanna Mowat said residents would be “concerned” about the plans. She said: “I will be speaking to police and residents about it and I hope the licensing board will take on board what the police say, which they haven’t been doing recently.”

Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi said licensing chiefs should listen to the experts.

He said: “I raised the issue of the large number of Wetherspoons applications in particular in Parliament with the minister for public health, and his message was what my message would be: we have to pay attention to the experts here, and the experts in both health and antisocial behaviour, the police and the NHS, have argued against additional licences in that area in the past.

“They weren’t listened to by the licensing committee; that’s the licensing committee’s right, but I very much hope that a different perspective can be taken here. This does seem to be just too much.”