VITAL office space for up to 2000 jobs could be lost under controversial plans to redevelop a key site on the edge of the New Town, council officials have warned.
Royal Bank of Scotland wants permission to demolish its premises at Dundas Street and Fettes Row to make way for a residential-led development of up to 400 flats.
It seems insane to knock it down. This is an opportunity to retain jobsJUDITH SYMES
The application also proposes a hotel, care home, shops and restaurants.
But although offices are included as a possible element of the scheme, the outline plans would also allow for no offices at all.
And the council’s city strategy and economy department is recommending that planners set a minimum amount of office space which would be required on the site.
In a submission, the department said the existing RBS “Fettes campus” was the 12th largest office site in Edinburgh and if fully let could support up to 1986 full-time equivalent jobs, worth millions of pounds to the economy.
If the proposed redevelopment went ahead, then a “worst case scenario” of no offices being included could mean just 215 jobs from the other uses which form part of the redevelopment of the site, it said.
The submission added: “There is a growing pressure on office space in Edinburgh due to a combination of steady demand, limited new development and the loss of older space.
“The demolition of the Fettes campus represents the loss of a significant quantum of office space.”
RBS is vacating the offices to move staff out to its headquarters at Gogarburn.
The proposed redevelopment in Dundas Street would involve ten blocks – the first two would be office, hotel or residential, another two would be residential or office and the rest would be residential.
Resident Judith Symes, of Fettes Row, argued demolition of the current buildings should not be allowed. She said: “Edinburgh is short of high quality office space and that’s exactly what is there just now. It seems insane to knock it down. People think this is an opportunity to retain high quality jobs in the area.”
And Dorothy Hogg, of the Fettes Row and Royal Crescent Association, said: “They are perfectly good buildings and it seems ludicrous they cannot be retained when Edinburgh is trying to develop its walk-to-work opportunities for people.
“There is a lot of retail around here that survives on these offices and would not be here without them.”
Objectors have collected around 750 signatures on a petition against the development and the proposals have attracted more than 450 comments on the council’s planning website.
Historic Environment Scotland has objected to the scale and layout of the development as proposed, arguing it would have an adverse impact on the World Heritage Site.
An RBS spokeswoman said: “We announced last year our intention to vacate the Fettes and Dundas site. We have now engaged specialist advisors to work with us to explore the development opportunities for the site.
“We are giving full and careful consideration of the impact of the development in the preparation of the proposals. Ultimately we will look to sell the site and buildings to developers who can realise the site’s potential, in line with planning guidelines.”