Plans lodged for rooftop restaurant for Princes Street

IT'S surely one of the greatest views on offer anywhere '“ the historic battlements of Edinburgh Castle rising up to the right and the majestic greenery of Princes Street Gardens stretching out below.

Wednesday, 28th September 2016, 8:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:09 pm
View from the top of the BHS building on Princes Street. Pic: Greg Macvean

And soon residents from across the Capital could be able to enjoy this very panorama while sipping a glass of chilled white wine and tucking into a plate full of high-class grub.

Plans for Princes Street’s first-ever rooftop restaurant are set to be lodged with the council in the coming weeks – with diners expected through the doors as early as October 2019.

The spectacular eatery will sit on top of the former BHS building, offering locals never-before-seen views of the Old Town and the majestic sweep of the city centre.

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Developers invited the Evening News up to experience the jaw-dropping panorama as they revealed a number of big-name international restaurateurs are already vying to take over the site.

Steve Spray, fund manager at LaSalle Investment Management, which is spearheading the project on behalf of building owners the British Coal Pension Fund, said: “It’s one of the best views in the world.

“Go on TripAdvisor in five years time and that rooftop will be one of the top-ten things to do in Edinburgh.

“The view is just fantastic. And it’s a view that currently the public just can’t access. The detail is still being developed, but we’ve had two restaurateurs on that roof so far and one’s already made an offer. The other has been and has confirmed they’ll be making an offer.”

As well as the “high-quality” rooftop hotel, developers want to turn the upper floors of the B-listed building – which was purpose-built for BHS in the 1960s – into a 140-bed hotel.

Meanwhile, the shopping space below will be revamped, while the Rose Street extension to the store will be demolished and a new building constructed with two ground-floor restaurants or retail units and the hotel entrance.

Mr Spray said ten hoteliers have confirmed they want to put forward proposals so far, with more expected in the coming weeks. But it’s the rooftop restaurant that will provoke the most interest among locals – forming the cherry on the cake of the wider, £50 million development.

Spanning 6000 sq ft, the eatery will boast floor-to-ceiling windows and an expansive outdoor terrace for the summer months capable of holding 100 tables. And there’s no denying that the views are to die for. From a table at the edge of the terrace, diners will be able to watch trams glide by on the street below as the higgledy-piggledy mass of the Old Town rises over the trees of Princes Street Gardens in front.

To the left, the Gothic spire of the Scott Monument punctures the chilly blue sky, while Arthur’s Seat and the Crags swell up magnificently in the background.

Bosses hope to have planning permission in place by the end of March next year, with work starting on site in September.

Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: “The plans for the former BHS building look really exciting and will be a great addition to the city centre.

“The scale of the project, coupled with the significant interest already expressed in occupying the retail, hotel and restaurant spaces show again that our city centre is proving a real attraction to new investors across all sectors.

“The site is a very important one for Princes Street and to see it developed to such a high quality standard and with mixed use is excellent news.”

The old BHS building was one of the first “panel buildings” on Princes Street – so-called because of a panel of city planners who were pursuing plans to create a continuous first-floor walkway along the length of the thoroughfare.

The only surviving signs of the ambitious project are a few buildings with balconies to become part of the walkway.

Mr Spray added: “There has been a good initial response to our proposals and the city planners and heritage groups are fully engaged with us.”