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Council defies UNESCO to back hotel plan

Cowgate hotel
New hotel for Cowgate

Edinburgh councillors have approved controversial plans for a £65 million four-star hotel in Edinburgh’s Old Town despite concerns from world heritage experts.

The 235-bedroom development will see a number of listed but unused buildings bought back into use between Victoria Street and Cowgate.

ICA Architects on behalf of Jansons Property has designed the hotel which will connect the A-listed India Buildings at the top of Victoria Street with a currently neglected corner of Cowgate.

As part of the development, The Cowgatehead Church is to be renovated and brought back into use as the function facilities for the hotel.

The India Buildings site is one of the so-called Edinburgh 12 – important gap sites earmarked by the council as key areas for development. It is understood city chiefs pushed for the plot to become a high quality hotel.

Experts have estimated that it could be worth more than £5m a year to the city’s economy.

However, the scheme is not without its critics. In February, the hotel scheme was also named by UNESCO advisers as one of seven developments it had “strong concerns” about.

Ragout CowgateDaily Business raised concerns in October (right) that the facade in Cowgate is not in keeping with neighbouring buildings or the overall historic streetscape in the area.

It will have nine levels at its highest point, dropping to six storeys on the Cowgate side.

The proposals attracted more than 200 objections from local residents and groups including Old Town community council, heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association and Visit Scotland.

A petition against the scheme also attracted more than 2000 signatures.

Jansons Property managing director, Andy Jansons, said: “These proposals are all about preserving three listed buildings, and bringing a four or five-star hotel development to the city.

Cowgate hotel“There is no doubt that an additional £5.3m of annual visitor spend into the Victoria Street and Cowgate area would make a huge difference to some of Scotland’s most iconic shopping areas, and another high-end hotel operator will help to further secure the city’s place as a world-class tourism destination.”

Work  is expected to begin in January with a view to completion in summer 2018.

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