No matter what happens, the consultants always win – Kevin Buckle

The plan for the new Filmhouse was unveiled this weekThe plan for the new Filmhouse was unveiled this week
The plan for the new Filmhouse was unveiled this week | 2011 Grimshaw Architects
The Filmhouse plan is just the latest in a series of projects that look set to run and run

With the announcement of yet another major project in the new Filmhouse my first thought was “that is never going to happen” and it was quickly obvious I wasn’t alone

I joked on Twitter that from the roof of the new Filmhouse people would be able to see the new Quaich Project, the new IMPACT Centre and the new Old Royal High School hotel.

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There is no doubt that the Filmhouse does need to move and there has always been a desire to not move far but I was also led to understand that funding was an issue and it is not clear if that has changed.

The King’s Stables Road site, currently home to the Castle Park Terrace car park, had been mooted as a possible home as part of a bigger complex but since the car park’s listing by Historic Environment Scotland that couldn’t happen any time soon.

An issue with many of these projects is that they provide an income for professionals in particular whether they happen or not. It reminds me of when I moved to the Grassmarket and businesses there told me not to trust anybody who was on a salary or being paid a fee.

This covered virtually everybody and seemed a little harsh but I soon understood what they meant. I had moved to the Grassmarket after the pedestrianisation but the businesses there had endured years of disruption causing some to close and when the promised benefits failed to materialise nobody was out of pocket except the businesses.

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Lawyers, consultants, planners and a host of other professionals get paid whether a project goes ahead or not and if it does they still get paid if their advice and predictions prove to be flawed.

Businesses and local communities are often left to clean up the mess and nobody is paying them.

I doubt the councillors that are so keen on transforming the city, a laudable objective in itself, would be quite so keen if it was their own money at risk but they do gamble with Edinburgh’s city centre businesses’ livelihoods on an almost daily basis.

I’ve never seen the need for the IMPACT Centre but I do hope the other three projects go ahead. However, you can be sure with The Quaich Project and the Filmhouse that there is a long road ahead with many changes, much scaling back and many more professional fees.

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Meanwhile the Old Royal High saga is reaching its denouement having generated a mountain of fees and leaving a scenario better suited to high stakes poker.

I certainly would have happily had a bet with anybody in the council administration or with their officials that the measures taken so far to deal with the effect on other businesses of the Edinburgh St James opening are completely inadequate. Now of course I’m sure all blame will be laid at the door of the coronavirus which will no doubt become a useful scapegoat on many occasions.

It will be a tough year for businesses who are hoping things will start to get back to some normality by the end of the year but certainly in Edinburgh if the St James doesn’t get them then Underbelly’s Christmas market will.

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