Government agency backs £45 million concrete concert hall project

How the proposed concert hall will appear from St Andrew Square.
How the proposed concert hall will appear from St Andrew Square.
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A £45 million project to create the first new concert in hall in Edinburgh for more than 100 years has been backed by the Scottish Government’s heritage agency - despite it being a modern concrete building in the middle of the historic New Town.

The 1000-capacity Impact Centre, earmarked for a site behind the historic Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters on St Andrew Square, has been endorsed by Historic Environment Scotland - meaning it is now highly unlikely to be called in by ministers.

The firm behind the £1 billion St James development claims that the proposed concert hall would ruin views of the historic landscape in the New Town and dominate 18th century Dundas House, which RBS has a branch in.

Martin Perry, development director with real estate firm Henderson, which is behind the £1 billion shopping and leisure complex, has urged local residents and councillors to object to the concert hall on the grounds of its height, its planned concrete facade and possible disturbance to guests from lorries ferrying equipment and instruments to and from the venue.

However experts at HES say it will have less of an impact because its backdrop has already been “compromised” by neighbouring developments, including the new St James development, due for completion in 2021 and Harvey Nichols’, which opened its doors in 2002. HES has cited the impact of the new venue, which has been designed by leading British architect David Chipperfield, on “the cultural life of the city” as part of its justification for ruling it would not adversely impact Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.

HES said the “central relationship Dundas House has with St Andrew Square would be sufficiently preserved” under the plans for the venue, which has been pledged £25 million worth of funding by the UK and Scottish Governments, and the city council.

Its submission states: “Although there is a significant impact from some views, overall we consider the proposals represent the changing urban townscape of the city.”

Sir Ewan Brown, chairman of Impact Scotland, said: ““We are delighted by this considered contribution from Historic Environment Scotland. This is a huge step forward for the project to deliver a much-needed new concert hall for Edinburgh. It is extremely important that we create a building for the people of Edinburgh to be proud of.”

No-one at Henderson was available to comment. However in a letter to councillors last month, Mr Perry said it would be a “huge and damaging error for Edinburgh” if the current plans for the new concert hall were given the go-ahead.