Developers behind the “ribbon” hotel at the centre of the regeneration of the St James Centre have been dealt a blow after planning officials urged councillors to reject the scheme.
The landmark proposals go before the planning committee next week, but ahead of the crunch meeting officials have hit out at the project for “damaging” the city’s skyline.
The striking hotel design is seen as key to the wider success of the £850 million Edinburgh St James development in order to attract a five-star hotel operator and high-end retailers to neighbouring new shop units.
But planners insisted the luxury hotel would have an adverse impact on the surrounding listed buildings and harm Edinburgh’s status as a World Heritage Site.
The bold designs for the 12-storey building – which show it clad in distinctive copper-coloured rings, rising to a swirling flourish – have previously been criticised for being “crammed in”.
But tourism industry leaders have voiced strong support for the 204-room hotel, saying the Capital is “in desperate need” of extra luxury accommodation to attract more high-spending visitors.
Planning officials reserved particular criticism for the fact the proposed hotel is wider and taller than was initially planned – with its distinctive spiral rising almost 20 metres further into the sky – arguing it would “damage” the skyline by blocking key views.
Martin Perry, director of development at TH Real Estate, which is behind the project, said he was “disappointed” officials had recommended refusal.
Questions were also raised over the material coating the hotel’s exterior – bronze coloured stainless steel – with planners voicing fears it could be “too shiny and reflective”.
Mr Perry said: “We believe that Jestico + Whiles’ elegant design fully responds to the original council brief to enhance the city’s skyline and create something never seen in Edinburgh before – unparalleled 360-degree views of the city.”
The upper levels of the hotel design have been amended to include a spectacular public viewing gallery.
In July, city councillors gave the wider St James project the go-ahead despite protests from officials over the use of limestone cladding instead of traditional New Town sandstone.
Marion Williams, director of conservation group the Cockburn Association, said: “I’m delighted the officers agree with our view, but it will be interesting to see if the councillors agree with their officers – which they failed to do when it came to the sandstone issue.”
JESTICO + Whiles, the architect behind the “ribbon” hotel, has designed a number of high-profile hotels in the past – including London’s One Aldwych – and boasts an award-winning reputation.
But its diverse work also spans offices, schools, university buildings and embassies.