An iconic Edinburgh landmark has been granted permission to create a terrace in Princes Street Gardens after councillors gave renovation plans the green light.
The Scottish National Gallery on The Mound will undergo an overhaul to the basement level with a new terrace being developed in East Princes Street Gardens outside an enhanced entranceway.
The Scottish art collection, which is currently based in the lower level of the Scottish National Gallery, will be rehoused as part of the proposals.
Council officers said that only around 20 per cent of visitors to the gallery currently make it to the bottom floor of the complex and that the plans would have “no adverse impact on the architectural integrity of the building.”
The existing glass and bronze facade of the Property Services Agency (PSA) wing will be removed and replaced. The main entrance within the Weston Link extension in the Gardens will be altered to form a new entrance.
A new public space will be created on the Princes Street/Mound level of the gallery. An improved connection between Princes Street and the Weston Link entrance will be constructed along with the new terrace in front of the Weston Link elevation.
Councillors raised concerns about trees being removed from Princes Street Gardens as part of the scheme.
Cllr Alex Staniforth said: “There’s a very significant reduction in the number of trees on the site.
“Citywide, we are seeing our stocks dwindle. There are fewer trees in the city than there were five years ago.”
Convener of the council’s Development Management Sub-Committee, Cllr Neil Gardiner warned against the terrace becoming a “commercially cluttered space”.
He added: “It’s a very important site in the city. We don’t want it to effectively become a beer garden in the park. I think I personally support this scheme as it is.”
The terrace use will have to meet rules set by the council’s licensing department.
Cllr Mowat added: “This was built as a designed landscape and where the trees go have been very carefully placed.
“It’s one of those really important landscapes to Edinburgh. There are really few areas in the world where you can see these amazing products of the enlightenment mind still in their form today. It’s a really internationally and world precious bit of landscape.”
A spokesperson for the National Galleries of Scotland said: “We are delighted that the plans for our ambitious building project at the Scottish National Gallery have taken an important step forward with the approval.
“We now welcome more than 1.5 million visitors a year to the gallery and hope to build upon this success by attracting many more, from global visitors to the people on our doorstep. This ambitious extension programme will transform the way that the world’s greatest collection of Scottish art is presented and shared with the widest possible audience.