HERITAGE bosses have slammed plans to overhaul a modernist landmark – branding them tantamount to a demolition job.
A recommendation by council officers to allow the former Scottish Provident building in St Andrew Square to undergo what conservationists see as a radical alteration could be fuelling one of the biggest planning rows seen in the Capital in years.
Described as a “very fine and early example of a modern commercial development”, the listed building is to be partially bulldozed with council support despite a raft of objections from conservation groups.
Developers want to knock down several sections of the upper building to create a structure with level flooring across each storey, but this will require the “temporary demolition” of the B-listed façade.
Edinburgh City Council denies the building is to be demolished and says no other consents are needed.
However, Historic Scotland, the body tasked with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment, has waded into the row, insisting the proposed work amounts to “substantial demolition” and would “essentially be a new building”.
If approved, the agency said it would “likely result” in the new-build being de-listed, while heritage groups have threatened to file a complaint with the Scottish Ombudsman.
Euan Leitch, speaking on behalf of the Cockburn Association – one of five groups opposing the work – questioned why city planners accepted the “misleading” application.
He said: “The council’s approach to this has been unethical in planning terms and it has the appearance of the planning department trying to circumvent the due planning process to come to a speedier decision in favour of a developer.”
He also accused them of ignoring advice from Historic Scotland because they wanted to make a faster decision.
He added: “The objection letters are explicit that if the planning application went ahead the building would be de-listed by Historic Scotland. There is already consent to demolish two older listed buildings next door which means St Andrew Square would lose three listed buildings.”
Built in 1969 and designed by William Leslie of Rowand Anderson Kininmouth & Paul, the L-shaped building was in use until 2004.
A council spokesman said it is “satisfied” with the plans. He said: “In our view the application does not propose to demolish the building. The floor space behind the façade will be reconfigured. The façade will be taken down and then rebuilt to allow the work to go ahead.”
Stockland (St Andrew) Limited wants to transform the building into office space.