Dance group gets surprise backing to transform church

The chapel in Rose Street.  Picture: Kate Chandler
The chapel in Rose Street. Picture: Kate Chandler
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AMBITIOUS plans to transform a historic church into a theatre and centre for the performing arts have been given the go-ahead.

Councillors yesterday pushed through proposals from ballet legend Peter Schaufuss to turn the B-listed Charlotte Baptist Chapel in Rose Street into a £1.8 million performance space.

Meanwhile, a separate bid to open Edinburgh’s first dedicated steak and gin bar on the site was refused during the same planning meeting – despite the application being backed by the church’s current congregation and put forward by the building’s owner, Glendola Leisure Group.

Mr Schaufuss, a Danish director and former boss of English National Ballet, said he was “absolutely delighted” his scheme had been granted.

But he declined to say what his next move would be – and whether he would now attempt to buy the early 20th-century church from Glendola Leisure.

His plans would see the building’s first and second floors transformed into a theatre, while its street level would house a cafe, bar and smaller venue.

The new attraction – which would be home to a “world-class dance company and its school” – would boast a year-round cultural schedule packed with music, drama and dance.

And the blueprints have even secured the backing of ballet star Darcey Bussell, the Ralph and Meriel Richardson Foundation and actress Felicity Kendal, with hopes the venue could attract 80,000 visitors over the festivals period.

An alternative scheme put forward by Glendola Leisure sought to turn the listed church into 22 boutique serviced apartments, as well as a restaurant and bar.

Glendola originally wanted to convert the chapel into an Irish-themed Waxy O’Connor’s pub with room for 900 drinkers.

But the controversial plans – lodged in 2013 – were slammed by residents and heritage groups and eventually knocked back by councillors.

Managing director Alexander Salussolia said the company would consider its options 
following the latest setback.

He said: “We are disappointed with the decision as we worked hard over several years with the council to ensure that we brought forward proposals that were acceptable and also economically viable.

“Our plans had taken into account the heritage of the Charlotte Baptist Chapel while offering a commercially viable and sustainable proposal that would have had minimal impact on the amenity of the area and boosted Edinburgh’s tourism sector.

“Glendola Leisure will now take time to review the decision and consider our options.”

Charlotte Baptist Chapel’s 500-strong congregation is moving to St George’s West Church in Shandwick Place.