New tram delay fears over missing planning consent

The wall and steps outside Lord Bodo's bar will have to be altered
The wall and steps outside Lord Bodo's bar will have to be altered
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Fears have been raised about more delays to the tram project after it emerged that the city council still has to get planning permission for a key part of the line.

The decision in September to end the line in the city centre means that additional design work still has to be completed on York Place – and will have to include a planning application for listed building consent.

Design work is expected to be completed in the coming months but any planning application will have to be, scrutinised and approved by next summer if the programme timetable is to remain on track.

The application is required for increases in the heights of two boundary walls and stairways outside properties on the junction between Dublin Street and St Andrew Square.

The adjustments are needed as the height of the road on York Place will be raised to make the turn from St Andrew Square less steep for the trams.

Councillors say they fear that the work could add delays and costs on to the project, which has already gone £231 million over budget.

Jeremy Balfour, leader of the Tory group on the council, said: “The thing that worries me is that we still do not have completed plans – that was the problem the last time because the design and plan was not complete and that caused problems with the contractor.

“We don’t know how many people will object and we don’t know what the result will be so it could add on costs for the project.”

Councillor Iain Whyte, the Tory finance spokesman, said: “It shows how the management of this project has gone badly wrong if, three years after signing the contract, we still do not have the planning permission we need sorted out.”

York Place would have needed to be raised slightly under the original plan to go to Newhaven but officials have never previously revealed the need for a planning application for the wall and steps outside Lord Bodo’s bar, or outside the apartments directly opposite on Dublin Street.

Shona Eadie, manager of Lord Bodo’s, said she hadn’t even been told that work would need to be done on her property. She said: “We’ve not heard anything. This whole building is listed and this is a heritage site so I can’t see how they can go ahead and do this.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport spokeswoman for the Labour group on the council, which previously supported ending the line at Haymarket, said: “Obviously there is a concern about the timescales of getting planning permission and going through that design process and how does this fit in with the contract and the possibility of costs going up?”

However, Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, dismissed the concerns and said discussions had already been held with Historic Scotland and he was “confident” that the work would be able to start on time.

He added: “It is mischief-making from politicians whose noses are out of joint.

“They are just trying to sew doubts in the minds of the public because they did not get what they wanted.”