City of excesses

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BILL Jamieson’s staunch defence of “prim and frigid” Edinburgh (Perspective, 9 October) was well-argued, but contained one uncharacteristic howler. He claims the city is “ferociously proud of its history, defensive of its architecture and appearance and sensitive to considerations of place and environment” and that “it may be too in thrall of its past for new and ground-breaking architecture”.

The evidence of our eyes ­suggests otherwise.

Edinburgh is a city which has adopted an approach to planning that recalls the worst excesses of the 1960s and 70s, when historic George Square and St James’s Square were sacrificed to the post-war cult of brutalist modernism. The city council not only blithely defaces listed buildings with such bolt-on horrors as the hideous glass conservatory on the Usher Hall, or sub-industrial tramworks along Princes Street and York Place; it now engages in full-blown vandalism by sanctioning the destruction of important listed buildings in the heart of the New Town, such as the three B-listed buildings recently smashed down on the south side of St Andrew’s Square.

One of these was meant to be staying, but was demolished. This was the former Scottish Provident headquarters, and a rare thing – a building of the 1960s whose architect, Sir William ­Kininmonth, had worked to a scale which fitted in with its surroundings.

Its neighbours were stunning neo-renaissance urban palazzos which had their façades restored in the 1990s. No 4 was by the Edinburgh architect John McLachlan in 1883. Its larger neighbour on death row, No 5, was designed in 1903 by John Carfrae, who was architect to the Edinburgh School Board, and was responsible for around 20 schools, including Boroughmuir, Tynecastle, and Flora Stevensons.

More to the point, it would seem that these demolitions might be considered unlawful, since they were undertaken without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as required by law. This has been denied by ­Edinburgh Council Planning Department, which claims no EIA or screening procedure was ­required.

So this is a city which is “ferociously proud of its history and defensive of its architecture”? I don’t think so.

David J Black 

St Giles’ Street