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Project loses figurehead

Brown quits concert hall project following legal row

Impact concert hall

The concert hall would be Edinburgh’s first in a century

Businessman Sir Ewan Brown has stood down from leading efforts to create Edinburgh’s first new concert hall for more than a century.

Sir Ewan will leave the Dunard Centre project under an overhaul of its board following a lengthy legal wrangle which threatened to bring an end to the project.

The backers of Dunard want to build the concert hall behind the historic Royal Bank of Scotland head office in St Andrew Square.

A dispute with the developer of the neighbouring St James development over the height of the concert hall was only resolved in January after an agreement to “substantially reduce” its size.

Designed by award-winning British architect David Chipperfield, the proposed new 1000-capacity home for both the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Edinburgh International Festival had been due to open next year.

Impact concert hall RBS HQ

There were complaints about the hall’s height

It is now said to be “several years” from opening because of the need to redesign it.

Edinburgh International Festival director Fergus Linehan and Gavin Reid, chief executive of the SCO, have agreed to jointly chair the board of Impact Scotland, the charity driving the project.

Investment banker Sir Ewan led efforts to secure planning permission the project as well as pledges of £25 million worth of backing from the UK and Scottish governments and the city council.

However within months of councillors deciding to rubber-stamp the plans for the venue, Nuveen Real Estate launched a bid for a judicial review, claiming that the correct planning procedures had not been followed for the development.

It later emerged that the cost of the proposed venue was set to cost at least £25m more than the original price tag of £45m and that its main benefactor, American arts philanthropist Carol Grigor, had agreed to up her contribution to £35m.

The legal dispute forced Impact Scotland to halt all detailed design work on the project in the December and was only resolved after city council chiefs brokered a settlement.

However, new plans are yet to be brought forward and a proposed price tag for the redesigned concert hall has yet to be revealed.

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In a statement announcing his departure, Sir Ewan said: “Leading the project to create a new world-class concert hall in Edinburgh has been a privilege and one of the most exciting challenges that I have worked on.

“It has been a huge pleasure to work with a talented and dedicated team and we have been overwhelmed by the support to create Edinburgh’s first purpose-built music venue in over a century.

“These are challenging times for everyone, but with a new design under development we are well placed to get under way once planning is secured and make a contribution to the rebuilding of the city’s cultural life following on from the devastating impact of the pandemic.”

We’re still very much on track to deliver The Dunard Centre, which is an important and exciting new venue

– Adam McVey, Edinburgh City Council

Edinburgh International Festival Fergus Linehan said: “Ewan has been the driving force behind the concert hall project since its inception and has worked tirelessly to garner support and drive the project forward.

“To keep the project focused on the prize of a truly transformational, world-class concert hall, whilst overcoming some complex challenges, is testament to his dedication and expertise.”

City council leader Adam McVey said: “We’re still very much on track to deliver The Dunard Centre, which is an important and exciting new venue for our city – particularly as we seek to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and rebuild our culture sector.

“It will be an exciting new venue for everyone and is in one of our most sustainable locations, with fantastic public transport connections.

“We’ll continue to work closely with the interim co-chairs and the rest of the board to progress our ambitious plans for a world-class concert hall in the heart of Edinburgh.”

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