Council poised to reject its own museum revamp plan

The Museum of Edinburgh, on the Royal Mile
The Museum of Edinburgh, on the Royal Mile
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THE council is set to reject its own ambitious plans for the revamp of a city centre museum.

The proposals set out a number of new features for the Museum of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile, and councillors will vote on the changes tomorrow.

However, officials have recommended the majority of the plans be rejected because they don’t fit in with the local area – even though it is a council-run facility.

Architects wanted to completely rejuvenate the 16th century building, making it more eye-catching and appealing to potential visitors. Museum chiefs have long complained that they have been unable to erect a proper sign outside, meaning thousands pass every day without even noticing it.

Plans included a large mesh frame to be hung across the front, the creation of an 18th century pub frontage on the door facing the Canongate, painting some of the walls in brighter colours and even introducing water features between the gable ends of the historic buildings.

And while local authority bosses sympathise with the concept of sprucing up the museum, they think this particular submission has gone too far, and will tell councillors at the planning meeting to boot out the proposals.

Head of planning John Bury said: “The museum have indicated that they struggle to adequately sign their presence in the street and that they need to make themselves more visible.

“The approach in this application is therefore to provide more animation to the street and to lead passers-by into the museum.”

But he berated the “cheap and poor quality option” that the proposed new sign would present, adding that it is “not of the high quality that would be expected of the institution”.

On the idea to paint the ends of the buildings different colours, he said: “It would add clutter to the Canongate elevation and be of detriment to the character of the conservation area.”

His concerns have been echoed by Historic Scotland, which told planners: “We fully appreciate the applicants’ desire to raise the street profile of the museum and are supportive of their aspirations to do so.

“However, we have strong concerns regarding several elements of the current proposals, and the cumulative impact that they would have on this important building group.

“We consider the impact will confuse and obstruct understanding and appreciation of the building group.”

Officials have recommended a mixed decision, allowing the more subtle aspects of the redesign to go forward, with strict conditions attached.

Once a decision is reached, the council will decide to tweak the overall plan or only pursue the elements it has been given permission for, dumping the more ambitious aspects.