​A Dome of our own makes sense and the sooner the better- John McLellan

The SSE Hydro indoor arena building on the banks of the Clyde, Glasgow took 12 years to reach fruitionThe SSE Hydro indoor arena building on the banks of the Clyde, Glasgow took 12 years to reach fruition
The SSE Hydro indoor arena building on the banks of the Clyde, Glasgow took 12 years to reach fruition
It might qualify as the longest-ever newspaper campaign, but after 30 years the Evening News can claim victory for its argument that Edinburgh needs a major indoor concert venue.

​Ok, so it might not have featured in the paper every day, but the “Dome of Our Own” campaign was a “no-brainer” when it started in the mid-90s and the only mystery is why it has taken so long.

It nearly came off not long after the launch, when negotiations with the company owned by ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler, which developed the Newcastle Arena, reached an advanced stage, but hopes were dashed when Chandler died suddenly in 1996.

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Now it has fallen to another businessman with strong Tyneside links, Peter Millican, whose company Parabola is regenerating Edinburgh Park, to come up with a plan which looks very much like it could become a much needed and welcome reality.

Parabola has reportedly agreed to sell a plot immediately north of the Edinburgh Park tram and railway hub to O2 Arena operator AEG and proposals for an 8,500-seater venue will be available at a public exhibition next month, with the apparent aim of stating construction next year.

It’s a hugely ambitious timetable, considering plans for the Glasgow Hydro started in 2001, planning permission wasn’t granted until 2006, and it didn’t open for business until 2013.

A planning application hasn’t been submitted never mind approved, but with Edinburgh Council leader Cammy Day already giving his seal of approval, and as Parabola still controls the rest of the site, the chances of planning becoming a stumbling block are limited.

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Peter Millican talks about legacy, about delivering something of lasting value in what he expects to be his last big project, and he has forged a strong relationship with senior officers who he has impressed with the mixture of housing, business, culture and green space in the Edinburgh Park concepts.

Similarly, Edinburgh’s other new music venue, the Dunard Concert Hall on St Andrew Square, was a pet council project as part of the City Region Deal, and leading officials did everything they could to smooth its passage through the system, despite contravening several key planning policies.

And the Edinburgh Park plan will not be without its contradictions. In the controversial Cityplan 2030 proposals, the land is earmarked for “housing in strategic business centre”, so having just declared a “housing emergency” the Council is already facing the potential loss of a site where new homes could have been built.

This should not be a reason to block the arena plan, but it once again exposes the Cityplan’s inadequacies when it was dependent on squeezing as many homes into vacant sites as possible. Perhaps the new plans might need to be accompanied by housing plans on the rest of Edinburgh Park of greater density than Parabola originally envisaged.

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Whichever way it’s managed, the arena needs to be delivered, and with the tram and a railway station on the doorstep, as well as the proximity of the airport, there aren’t many sites which fit the bill as well. It might even boost passenger numbers at the white elephant Edinburgh Gateway railway station for concert goers coming in from Fife and Dundee.

It all makes sense and has done for years, and the sooner work can start the better.

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