Iconic clock to be restored under Johnnie Walker whisky centre plans

The Edinburgh attraction is intended to be the focal point of a 150million investment in Scotch whisky tourism by Diageo.
The Edinburgh attraction is intended to be the focal point of a 150million investment in Scotch whisky tourism by Diageo.
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An iconic meeting point at the heart of the Capital will be restored to its former glory after councillors approved plans to transform a former department store into a world-class whisky destination.

The new attraction is set to create up to 180 new full time jobs and will include an immersive visitor experience across three floors of the vacant building.

Looking up towards the clock. Pic: Callum Bennetts

Looking up towards the clock. Pic: Callum Bennetts

And the iconic cantilever clock will be fully restored as part of the plans and will include pipers coming in and out at certain times.

The council’s economic development officials said the plans will balance the footfall of Princes Street with the St James Centre, under construction in the east end of the Capital’s city centre.

Planning officers said the plans, “the centrepiece of £150m of investment”, will “change the whole building” and “help sustain footfall in the West End”. Officers added that the bronze roof terrace bar will be a “respectful contemporary addition to the main building” and will provide “high quality, appropriately scaled structures”.

Planning convener, Cllr Neil Gardiner said: “With the St James Centre opening at the East End, it’s important that Princes Street changes with the times.

Artist impressions and visualisations of the proposed Johnnie Walker visitor centre for the old Frasers department store Princes Street - Edinburgh

Artist impressions and visualisations of the proposed Johnnie Walker visitor centre for the old Frasers department store Princes Street - Edinburgh

“This is a very welcome massive investment in the city. The use of the rooftop and upper levels is good and it’s using Princes Street to its best.”

Diageo said it will create the “best bar in the world” on a roof terrace, which would offer views of Edinburgh Castle and the city. The new development is set to open its doors by Christmas 2020.

But Cllr Chas Booth called for the application to be put on hold for officers to consider the impact on neighbouring properties.

He said: “I have some concerns about this application, particularly on the impact on residential amenity.”

Diageo said it would also create the "best bar in the world" on a roof terrace

Diageo said it would also create the "best bar in the world" on a roof terrace

But deputy planning convener, Cllr Maureen Child backed a proposal for the development to be approved.

She said: “This is a great reuse of a historic building. It’s good to see that investment going on.

“I remember it as a child as Bins and I wanted to be there when the clock struck the hour to see what happens at the clock.”

Cllr Osler wanted the application to be paused over concerns the rooftop bars would have an impact on neighbouring residents.

She said: “We have been very cautious about allowing rooftop space in the city centre and this has just seemed to have been accepted.

“I’m just wondering why this is allowed.”

But Cllr Joanna Mowat said that the Edinburgh Licensing Board would be more equipped to deal with concerns and conditions with the rooftop bar.

She said: “The condition on the rooftop bar is best dealt with by licensing. It’s a planning condition is too prescriptive, it’s too difficult to change that.

“I’m not sure the enforcement would be particularly successful.”

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