A MODERNIST landmark in central Edinburgh is to be largely demolished to make way for an office, retail and residential complex, despite objections from heritage groups and prominent architects.
The former Scottish Provident building on St Andrew Square will be gutted and its facade removed before being rebuilt from next year.
Stockland intend to transform the south side of the square into grade A office space, along with ground floor retail units and seven exclusive apartments on the upper floors.
The development firm said the lengthy 27-month construction period will create 400 jobs. The building has been empty for nearly ten years.
Councillors approved the application yesterday having delayed the decision for a site visit and to examine a series of objections from Historic Scotland and the Cockburn Association civic trust.
Malcolm Fraser, a leading architect who chairs the Scottish Government’s town centre review, was also heavily critical of the project, warning against putting economic development before the demolition of a B-listed building.
He described the redevelopment style as “scrapbook-facadism” which is “universally derided, trashing and traducing our heritage for no benefit”.
The Scottish Provident building was designed by William G Leslie of Rowand Anderson, Kinimonth & Paul. It is highly regarded as a fine example of ‘Brutalist’ architecture among many conservationists.
Despite the concerns the council planning committee yesterday approved the project by 10 votes to 1. Two other buildings on the same block already have approval for demolition.
Ken Lindsay, a director at Stockland, last night welcomed the decision, which has paved the way for construction.
The firm said it had struggled to attract occupiers without making substantial changes to the building, including increasing floor heights to modern standards. It hopes to open the building in mid-2016.
He told The Scotsman: “Clearly we’re very pleased with this decision which will now allow us to get on site earlier than expected, hopefully by the spring.
“The changes to the building will allow us to attract top quality occupiers to this vibrant part of the city.”
He added that the proximity to the St Andrew Square tram stop would be a draw for interested businesses.
Mr Lindsay said: “We believe this is a prime site, especially given the proximity to Waverley Station and the new tram stop connecting the city centre to the airport.