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Go-ahead despite site concerns

Council backs plan for new Edinburgh concert hall

Impact Centre interior

New auditorium will seat 1,000 concert goers


 

Edinburgh is to get its first newly-built concert hall for more than 100 years despite concerns that the site is too small for the venture.

Councillors approved £45 million proposals for the Impact Centre which will include a 1,000-seat auditorium and 200-seat studio behind the historic Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters in St Andrew Square.

After more than five hours of debate, city councillors approved the project which will be known as the Dunard Centre in recognition of the contribution from the Dunard Fund, a charitable trust.

The building will be home to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and have rooms for education and conferences, while the open foyer will host music performances. It will be used as a venue for the Edinburgh International Festival.

Planning officer Emma Fitzgerald told councillors the plans would “preserve and enhance the conservation area” and said a reduction in daylight and sunlight in some surrounding buildings was “considered to be a minor infringement”.

Richard Price from the New Town and Broughton Community Council said the venue would provide a “significant and positive contribution” to that part of the city which is undergoing significant change. The concert hall will occupy a site between the RBS building and the new St James shopping centre.

Mike Prentice, development adviser to the St James developer TH Real Estate, said: “I’m disappointed, and our investors are somewhat angry the city is supporting proposals that fail to meet planning policy.

Impact Centre

The venue will form part of a transformation of the area


 

“The concert hall is too big for the site. The concert hall could and should go elsewhere.”

However, Adam Wilkinson of Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, told councillors that the plans show “a good understanding of the World Heritage Site”. He added that it will have “a neutral impact” on the World Heritage setting and if cultural gains are considered, “could be viewed as beneficial”.

Terry Levinthal from heritage watchdog, the Cockburn Association, conceded that the Impact Centre “does no harm to the New Town conservation area”.

Sir Ewan Brown, chairman of Impact Scotland, said: “It’s designed to be an open all day venue for all kinds of music.

“It will create a thriving public space where everyone feels welcome and a “destination everyone can feel part of”.

Planning convener Neil Gardiner said: “Initially I didn’t think the building could be sunk behind Dundas House. In putting this behind Dundas House, I think it works.”



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