Demolition of historic city mews to be approved

Artist's impression of the Charlotte Square site
Artist's impression of the Charlotte Square site
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PLANS to demolish a row of 200-year-old buildings behind Charlotte Square are set to be given approval by councillors despite reservations by a leading heritage group.

International investors plan to transform the former National Trust for Scotland headquarters into a business centre to attract financial institutions and investment to the historic square.

As part of the redevelopment by Bermuda-based Fordell Estates, a series of mews buildings in Hope Street Lane will be demolished to make way for a garden glass atrium.

Council officials have recommended councillors approve the demolition next week, along with requests to sub-divide the buildings. However, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland said the move is regrettable.

Spokesman Euan Leitch said: “On Charlotte Square I can’t imagine there are many, if any, of the townhouses which have their mews buildings left, so this is quite rare.

“These buildings are at the back of the townhouses and so are of less architectural interest, but their historical relationship with those townhouses is still important and this is one of the sole remainders of that in the area.

“We would prefer to see conservation and restoration of the fabric that’s already there and the different layers of history that are already there.”

He added: “Despite that, there are no concerns over the glass atrium. Although our panel of architectural historians felt it was a bold move, it wasn’t damaging the fabric of the building.”

John Bury, head of planning at the city council, said an atrium had been planned for the building in the past, but that work was stalled.

He said: “The mews were previously consented for demolition in both 1988 and 1994. Whilst these consents were never taken up, the overall principle of demolition of these particular buildings remains acceptable.

“These buildings are heavily altered and sit within an irregular context, in contrast to the formality of the square.”

Earlier this year, Edinburgh-based Corran Properties unveiled a £15 million plan to transform the former headquarters of the National Trust for Scotland, which was bought by Fordell Estates last year for about £9m.

Corran Properties said the development is the first move in a drive to reverse the “stagnation” of Charlotte Square over the past 20 years.

Once dominated by banking and legal firms, many have now moved to modern open-plan offices elsewhere.

Councillors on the planning committee will make a decision on the development on Wednesday.