Settlement details over ditched £45m Edinburgh concert centre plans revealed but cost to council remains secret

Details of the mediation between Edinburgh City Council, the developers of the new St James Centre and the developers behind the planned new concert hall on St Andrew Square can be made public for the first time.

Thursday, 26th November 2020, 7:00 am
The designs for the IMPACT Scotland concert hall were binned following legal threats from the developers of the St James Centre.
The designs for the IMPACT Scotland concert hall were binned following legal threats from the developers of the St James Centre.

The disclosure of the details of the mediation process involving the three parties which led to the plans for the £45m concert hall to be binned came after the council was taken to the Scottish Information Commissioner for failing to adequately respond to a environmental information regulations request, similar to Freedom of Information.

The joint minute details that Nuveen Real Estate, who are behind the St James development, would drop the judicial review challenging the council’s decision to award Impact planning permission for the concert hall, provided Impact withdrew their planning application and agreed to redesign the concert hall.

This followed two days of mediation overseen by Stephen O’Rourke QC and included a commitment for each party to cover their own costs of the proceedings.

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However, the reasons why the council and concert hall developers Impact agreed to drop previously approved plans for the hall are not included in the document, meaning it is not clear why such draconian measures were agreed.

When asked what the council spent on the matter, the council forwarded the request to the Freedom of Information department.

The council had previously rejected the release of the document due to the “greater public interest" in keeping the agreement secret and faced criticism for a lack of transparency.

When the mediation was made public in January, Martin Perry, director of Nuveen, said he hoped the fresh plans would “better accord with the aspirations” of the £1 billion St James Centre.

The St James Centre had launched legal action against the council’s decision to approve planning permission for the Dunard Centre, forcing Impact Scotland to put their plans and hold and explore options for alternative sites.

Mr Perry said: “We welcome the initiative to substantially reduce the size of the concert hall and we are happy to work with Impact Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council as Impact Scotland develops a new design which addresses our principal concerns.”

A council spokesperson said: “It’s good practice for us to mediate disputes to avoid lengthy and expensive legal proceedings. We’re pleased the process was successful.”

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