Adam Smith's Edinburgh home 'could be left to lie derelict'
EDINBURGH'S planning leader has accused Historic Scotland of being "stubborn" over its opposition to long-awaited plans to upgrade the former home of celebrated thinker Adam Smith.
Councillor Jim Lowrie, head of the Edinburgh City Council planning committee, has blamed the government agency's attitude for holding up a 3 million scheme to turn Panmure House, in Edinburgh's Old Town, into a new business and conference centre.
He warned Panmure House, a 17th-century building off the Canongate, faces years of decline if proposals to create a home for Heriot-Watt University's business school are rejected by the Scottish Government following a public inquiry in the spring.
Mr Lowrie said there was little of historic interest remaining inside the building, which was previously owned by the local authority, and that the university's plans - which involve a modern glass-boxed extension to the existing two-storey building - represented the best chance of restoring Panmure House, where Smith spent the last 12 years of his life.
The councillor questioned the need for Historic Scotland to become involved in the plans for the A-listed building.
However the council's own officials originally refused to endorse the university's plans, only for the officials' recommendations to be overturned by the planning committee.
In addition to Historic Scotland, demands that the 3m scheme be returned to the drawing board have come from Edinburgh World Heritage and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland
Mr Lowrie said: "These proposals had been discussed for more than a year with the council and they were approved by the planning committee after we went on a site visit. There was only one councillor who voted against the plans.
"The new glass atrium is actually lower than the roof of the existing building and its metal and glass design means it could actually be removed in future.
"It seems to be Historic Scotland's role in life to try to keep historic buildings as they are forever, but I don't see how this extension is obtrusive.
"The worry with Panmure House is it could lie derelict for years to come."
Graham Bell, spokesman for Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "Historic Scotland obviously has a useful function but they do sometimes seem to run adrift from what many other people are saying. It is important to remember that Edinburgh is not a museum for historic buildings."
Historic Scotland declined to comment in advance of the public inquiry, which starts in March.
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