Edinburgh's new concert hall will deliver 'great things' for the city, says developer

The developers behind plans for Edinburgh’s first new concert hall in over a century have urged the council to back scaled-down designs, saying they would deliver ‘great things’ for the city.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 1:45 pm

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The revised plans for a concert hall in the New Town have now been published following a bitter legal battle with the developers of the St James Quarter.

Edinburgh City Council approved earlier plans for a 1,000-seat, purpose-built concert venue just off St Andrew Square in April 2019, three years after the proposals were first published.

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The height of the new concert hall has been lowered to curb its impact on the new hotel at the St James Quarter.

However, the real estate firm behind the controversial St James Quarter, Nuveen Real Estate, claimed the views from the luxury hotel on the site would be blocked by the new development, and the proposals were sent for a judicial review.

The real estate firm eventually dropped the legal challenge, on the condition the concert hall was scaled back considerably.

Now, the trust behind the concert hall plans, the International Music and Performing Arts Charitable Trust (IMPACT Scotland), has published new proposals designed to placate the objections of Nuveen Real Estate.

The Dunard Centre will still have a 1000-capacity main auditorium despite having to be scaled back.

Rumours had been published that the concert hall would be reduced to a capacity of 850, and the cafe/bar would be omitted, but IMPACT Scotland’s new plans still claim a capacity of 1,000 and an ancillary cafe, albeit with a much reduced roof height.

A ‘contextual report’, published by IMPACT, reads: “This is a project which deserves to be considered in the round.

“Heritage and environmental impacts need to be measured alongside the very substantial cultural and social benefits which will be delivered for the city.

“These factors form a key part of the Outstanding Universal Value which underpins the inscription of Edinburgh City Centre as a World Heritage Site.

The view of the north end of the Dunard Centre from St Andrew Square.

“There is also an opportunity cost – the benefit or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else.

“Since every resource can be put to alternative uses, every action, choice, or decision has an associated opportunity cost.

“Without planning permission and listed building consent nothing will happen. However, with these permissions great things can be delivered.”

The site is currently occupied by a modern office building which will be demolished.

It is hoped the new Dunard Centre will open to the public in 2025.

A number of sites have been investigated by IMPACT over the years. These have included two sites in the Caltongate development area, a site at Potterrow, and a site at Castle Terrace, the NCP car park.

However, according to IMPACT ‘none of these sites was able to satisfy the criteria and, in any event, they are no longer available’.

The report continues: “In May 2019, The City of Edinburgh Council granted planning permission and listed building consent for the applications.

“These decisions were the subject of a judicial review. The parties engaged in a process of mediation and agreement was reached on how to address the matters at dispute.

“On the basis of this agreement, the court was invited to reduce the decisions of the council and to return the applications back to the council for further consideration and determination.

The southern entrance to the new Dunard Centre.

“All three applications therefore remain live.

“As a consequence of the mediation process, the applicant has varied the design of the proposed development.”

The venue, if approved, will be the first new concert hall built in Edinburgh for a century, and is planned to be a permanent home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

The project received £25m of support from Scottish and UK Governments, as well as Edinburgh City Council, but is expected to cost at least £75m, and is now not set to open until 2025.

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