Planners give new Haymarket gap site proposal thumbs-up

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REVISED plans for a controversial development of offices, shops, cafes and a hotel next to Haymarket Station should be given the go-ahead, senior planners have ruled.

Tiger Developments' plan to regenerate the former goods yard site at Morrison Street collapsed last year when a Scottish Government public inquiry ruled that a 17-storey five-star hotel on the site would harm the city's skyline.

But the Irish developer has now brought a new plan to the table.

It will see five different buildings created on the site with the tallest building extending to 35 metres high.

And the council's head of planning John Bury has recommended that the new scheme should win approval.

Business leaders today said they hope councillors back the verdict of the planning officials at a hearing where a final decision will be made next week.

Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "I hope this is approved because if it is not there is the prospect of another 25 years of a gap site."

The new proposal contains five buildings - four of which contain office space above either retail, food or leisure and the other is a 245-bedroom three-star hotel, expected to be occupied by Travelodge.

Across the site, there will be 143,917 square feet of office space - making it the biggest office development in the Capital since the recession - 12 retail units, a mini supermarket, and six bars, cafes or restaurants.

The city council - which sold the site to Tiger in 2005 for 41.5 million - approved the original plans only for the decision to be overruled by Scottish Government reporters in October 2009.

In a report for councillors, Mr Bury said that the reporter ruled that the majority of the original proposal would improve the site. He said: "It was the impact of the 17-storey hotel on the iconic skyline that led to the refusal."

In his report, he said the new scheme would only be "slightly visible" from key views including Edinburgh Castle and Corstorphine Road but said that it would "not discernibly alter" the views. He also said that the architectural design was of "high quality".

But a number of objections have been lodged. In one statement, Edinburgh World Heritage said: "We appreciate significant reduction of the height. However, we remain concerned that, while the proposed scheme (by EDI) relates to the architectural context of the exchange district, it does not respond strongly to the World Heritage Site."

Any approval would be subject to a legal agreement on a tram contribution. Transport officials had recommended 4.3m should be paid but Tiger has said an agreement is likely to be reached at a lower level. In the previous scheme, 2.5m had been agreed.

A spokesman for Tiger Developments said: "For the past 12 months, we have worked hard to revise our proposals in line with the needs of the city and the local community. Our current application follows comprehensive consultation with the local community and City of Edinburgh Council."