A focal point of Princes Street will be transformed into a new plaza and one-storey building – despite fears over loss of views of the Old Town.
Moorgarth, asset manager for the Waverley Mall, has won planning permission to create a single-storey u-shaped building on the roof of the shopping centre. A plaza on top of Waverley Mall will provide a performance space, as well as an area for farmers markets, pop ups, musical entertainment and an open air cinema.
A “large scale mosaic of coloured glazed ceramic tiles” will be created on the roof – which will include a walkway that will extend between Waverley Bridge and Waverley Steps.
The building currently occupied by Costa Coffee is set to be “realigned and redesigned” to match the appearance of the main building while the current New Look premises will be transformed into a cinema. Any events to take place in the plaza will need licensing permission.
The committee heard that although the development “will affect the existing views of the Old Town”, the overhaul “will not have a detrimental impact on the outstanding universal value of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site.”
But some councillors called for the application to be refused.
Cllr Chas Booth said: “Historic Environment Building have said that they believe there’s a negative impact on the World Heritage Site, albeit marginal and the Cockburn Association were scathing.
“I do think the outstanding universal value of our World Heritage Site is something we should cherish.”
But Cllr Joanna Mowat said she believed the development was being done in a “sensitive, subtle and fairly discreet way” and would improve the area.
She added: “There’s more good than ill – it will tidy up an area. It will provide a huge advantage in this part of the town. This is an improvement on what is there.”
Cllr Hal Osler, who also backed the plans, said that the “gain for pedestrians is absolutely enormous” with pavements set to be widened.
Planning convener Cllr Neil Gardiner moved against the plans, raising fears over the “privatisation of public space”.
He added: “The area does undoubtedly need tidied up. I don’t think this is quite right. It obscures large chunks of the gardens. The detriment of the outstanding universal value is not right for me.”
Cllr Max Mitchell, who formally moved for the plans to be given the green light, said that the current use of the site with temporary pop-ups is a “carbuncle” while Cllr Maureen Child labelled the current site as a “blooming nightmare of a place”.
Councillors voted in favour of approving the Waverley Mall development.
David Bol , Local Democracy Reporting Service
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