St James developers slate concrete plans for concert hall

THE Capital's proposed new concert hall has been slated for its concrete facade by developers behind the nearby £1 billion St James Quarter '“ who have just demolished the city's most famous concrete eyesore.
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The old St James shopping centre and New St Andrews House were bulldozed to make way for new shops, food units, cinema, homes and hotels in a development hailed as set to transform Edinburgh’s east end.

And TH Real Estate (THRE) is dismayed at the idea of concrete returning to the area by way of the new £45m concert hall, to be known as the Impact Centre – after the International Music and Performance Arts Charitable Trust, which is leading the project.

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THRE are objecting to the planning application for the concert hall – behind the RBS building in St Andrew Square – citing the proposed materials and also arguing the building is too large for the site.

An artist's impression shows the plan for the purpose-built concert hall at the Capital's new St James Quarter.An artist's impression shows the plan for the purpose-built concert hall at the Capital's new St James Quarter.
An artist's impression shows the plan for the purpose-built concert hall at the Capital's new St James Quarter.

In a letter to residents in the area, THRE development director Martin Perry said: “We have just removed significant amounts of concrete from the old St James Centre and New St Andrew’s House.”

He said when THRE were originally told about the concert hall plans, the capacity was 800 but it was now to be 1000. And he said the design had altered following public consultation. “Despite the concerns we expressed about the height of the concert hall, the effect of those changes has been to increase the height rather than reduce it.”

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Mr Perry told the News the company supported the vision of a new concert hall for the Capital. But he said: “We also believe that the suggested concrete finishes of the new 
building are completely inappropriate and will not enhance this very special area of the city.

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“The irony of us having just removed a huge building finished in concrete, only to have the possibility of another one built nearby is not lost on us.

“We have objected to the proposal and will continue to oppose inappropriate development in the area. We would be happy to support an appropriate proposal if one is brought forward.”

Impact said it was inaccurate to compare the material proposed for the concert hall to that used in the St James Centre.

And it said the planned 
concrete finish was specifically chosen to blend in with the stonework of the surrounding heritage buildings.

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It quoted its promise in the planning application: “Carefully selected stone aggregates, exposed through the polishing process, will pick up the various tones of sandstone found in the surroundings, from light beige to pale ochres, oranges to weathered dark greys. This range will allow the facades to blend into the richness of the neighbouring buildings without trying to imitate or replicate the quality of their stonework. “

Sir Ewan Brown, chairman of Impact Scotland, said the project had received overwhelming support from the public, local businesses, community and heritage bodies.

He said: “This is a much-needed venue, in an ideal central location which will bring a welcome cultural and community focused addition to the surrounding commercial retail and hotel developments.”