Flats plan for former Portobello cinema sparks protests

The Royal George Bingo building in Portobello. Pic: Greg Macvean
The Royal George Bingo building in Portobello. Pic: Greg Macvean
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Hundreds have raised objections to housing plans set to replace the former George Cinema and bingo hall in Portobello.

Over 400 people have objected to plans to raze the C-listed art deco building at 14 Bath Street to develop 20 residential flats.

Planning for the site was initially sought by Wothesay Limited but the application was refused by council planners.

Buckley Building Limited, who re-submitted plans for housing in October last year, want to restore the façade to replicate the original County Cinema and not demolish the site completely.

A statement supporting the new application said: “The new owners, who themselves are local businessmen and lifelong inhabitants of Portobello, believe that their intervention could potentially result in a more balanced approach to the development of a sympathetic, practical and sustainable plan for the reuse of the listed subjects.

“The commitment to purchase was made in the knowledge that the new owners would have to regain the trust and substantial support of the local community and that there could be conflicting demands made for the future use of the building.”

The window for public comment closed yesterday with over 400 people voicing their opposition to the Bath Street development plans.

If successful, Buckley Building Limited plan to “retain as much of the heritage and fabric of the existing listed structure” as is possible and aim to improve the outlook of the area for the surrounding residents.

However, community interest in the building has been supported by a feasibility study started by Out of the Blue, arts and education trust, in 2015, who have put forward a vision which would see the 1938 landmark transformed into a community venue.

And driving the vision is Friends of The George, a group of people from within the community whose aim is to revive The George.

The group state: “We are working on an ambitious vision to retain and upgrade this important listed building and operate it as a publicly-accessible, community-run cinema and arts venue.

“With an independent cinema as the main focus, The George could become a beacon for the arts in Portobello, providing a grass-roots home for cinema in Edinburgh.

“Well-equipped studio spaces would provide much-needed facilities, while a diverse programme of events and a well-stocked café would attract locals and visitors from further afield.”

Mary Campbell, Portobello resident and Greens candidate said: “A community is more than just housing: people need spaces where they can come together, and this could be one of them. With thousands of houses and flats planned for Portobello, community spaces are needed now more than ever. This building offers a space at the heart of the community that could be put to great use as an arts venue and community space. It’s a beautiful building that could be an asset to the area.”