Hotel tycoon offers to plough £5m into Ross Bandstand revamp

BBC Music holds a classical concert at the Ross Bandstand in 2002. Picture: Sean Bell
BBC Music holds a classical concert at the Ross Bandstand in 2002. Picture: Sean Bell
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A REVAMP of Edinburgh’s famous Ross Bandstand could be underway in just four years.

City leaders are looking to create a replacement for the crumbling structure after Apex Hotels founder Norman Springford offered to bankroll the project.

They hope the venue, situated in the heart of West Princes Street Gardens, could undergo redevelopment as part of a multi-million pound vision including new landscaping, a visitor centre and a refurbished Ross Fountain.

And bosses are now gearing up to launch a design competition to gather ideas for how the finished product could look.

At a meeting of the full council next week, members will discuss a report outlining the creation of a dedicated charity to front the proposed redevelopment.

This charitable trust will then launch a design competition for the site which, if approved by the council and permitted by the Scottish Parliament, could see work under way by 2020.

The council previously admitted the Ross Bandstand – which dates back to 1877 and was last overhauled in 1935 – was “no longer fit for purpose”.

Council leader Andrew Burns said the existing arena was “a key venue for the city’s famous festival fireworks and Hogmanay concert in the Gardens”, but was now more than 80 years old and “nearing the end of its useful life”.

He said: “By working in partnership with a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO), we hope to be able to work towards the creation of a new facility as part of major renewal of the Gardens.

“The area is common good land and we are well aware of the implications of building in public parks, so while there is still much work to be done, we are making a commitment to supporting and progressing plans.”

Due to strict rules over what can be built in Princes Street Gardens, city leaders will have to take their plans before the courts and government ministers before they can construct a visitor centre.

Council documents show Mr Springford will pump £5 million into the scheme, while generating further donations of up to £20m.

The wider plans include the replacement of two bridges spanning the railway line between Waverley and Haymarket stations.

Richard Lewis, the city’s culture leader, said: “In the shadow of Edinburgh Castle in the heart of West Princes Street Gardens, the Ross Bandstand boasts one of the most recognisable backdrops on earth.

“We are making a considerable step by progressing redevelopment ideas for the site and I hope that by working with Mr Springford, we will be able to support an exciting design competition with the SCIO to see this incredible asset brought back into suitable use.”

Mr Springford added: “A charitable trust has been set up and we are all looking forward to moving this project forward which will hopefully deliver immediate improvements in West Princes Street Gardens.”