Plans to knock down former Portobello cinema rejected by council

The Royal George Bingo building on Bath Street, Portobello, Picture: Greg Macvean
The Royal George Bingo building on Bath Street, Portobello, Picture: Greg Macvean
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Plans for the redevelopment and partial demolition of the former George Cinema in Portobello have been unanimously rejected by the council’s planning committee.

Yesterday, developers failed to persuade the 12 councillors to grant approval on both the application for listed building consent and the application for planning permission.

The plans for 20 new flats and the refurbishment and restoration of the frontage of the 80-year-old building at 14 Bath Street were knocked back because the committee believed they didn’t comply with the listed building application requirements.

Buckley Building Ltd submitted the original plans in 2016, stating that the demolition of the auditorium “was justified due to its inability to be repaired”.

This was challenged by councillors, with Neil Gardiner, who headed up the committee, saying that anyone who could “restore the building sensitively must have a chance to come forward”.

Developer Liam Buckley told the committee that there was a “silent majority in favour” of the redevelopment based on his experience talking to people living in the area. Architect George Gilbert put forward that a “sensitive regeneration of a valuable historic building” was being proposed. The plans included the partial restoration of missing architectural 
elements that had been stripped from the original building.

Friends of the George, set up by concerned residents and local business people, previously submitted ambitious rival plans to upgrade the C-listed building into a community-run cinema and cultural and education centre.

The campaign group said: “We are delighted with this morning’s planning committee decision, the unanimous rejection of the developers’ planning application marks another milestone in our campaign to see The George restored to its former glory as a cinema and arts space at the heart of the Portobello community.”

Greens councillor for Portobello and Craigmillar, Mary Campbell said: “I was delighted to watch the committee unanimously refuse the plans to demolish the George. I hope that two refusals for planning in a row will mean that the site now comes up for sale at a reasonable rate for restoration. The Friends of the George deserve their chance to bring their proposals for a community cinema and arts space to life.”

Buckley Homes UK were approached for comment. Edinburgh-based architect George Gilbert who acted as agent for the developers was not available for comment.

SNP councillor George Gordon, who was one of the 12 councillors in agreement over the rejection of the plans, told the Evening News:

“The applicants and officers case for the D-listing of the property was considered but I believe the application was inconsistent with no real clarity.

“It shouldn’t have been presented as it wasn’t explored sufficiently and I felt there were just too many ambiguities,” he added.