Long-awaited plans for a multi-million-pound new concert arena in Edinburgh’s Princes St Gardens have been put on hold after concerns from potential backers over who will be responsible for it in future.
Funders approached to back the replacement for the 83-year-old Ross Bandstand are said to have raised repeated concerns over the way the existing arena has been allowed to fall into decline.
Behind-the-scenes wrangling over who will foot the bill for repairs and maintenance has still not been resolved – more than five months after a winning design was chosen.
The Ross Development Trust, which was set up by hotel developer Norman Springford to pursue the project, has insisted it cannot proceed with any further design work until it has clarity on the upkeep of a new pavilion, amphitheatre and visitor centre, which would be in use all year round. The impasse is believed to have ruled out the prospect of work being finished in time for a proposed completion date of 2019.
The city council is thought to have made it clear it is unable to find any extra funding to pay for the maintenance of any new facilities in the gardens.
It is understood there are also concerns over potential over-commercialisation of the gardens if too much control is handed over to the development trust. American architects Why won against competition from 125 teams from 22 different countries to win the design competition in August.
The trust hopes to reach a formal agreement with the city council in March which would allow the project to proceed. However, Andy Neal, a trustee, admitted it had been a mistake not to have a full agreement in place before proceeding with the competition.
He said: “When we’ve had initial conversations with potential funders the response to the project and the winning concept has been very positive, but one thing has cropped up, which we hadn’t fully expected and we perhaps should have thought of before.
“The development agreement we have goes as far as fundraising and building, but there is nothing beyond that.
“The question being asked is, ‘How can we be assured that if we build something it doesn’t gradually fall into disrepair through under-investment?’ The current bandstand … is testament to what can happen.”
Donald Wilson, the council’s culture leader, said: “My preferred option for this project is that it is sustainable and self-funding going forward, including whatever repairs and maintenance, whether that is by donations or income.”