City urged to force repairs to Odeon site

COMMUNITY activists have launched a campaign to persuade council chiefs to step in and save the former Odeon cinema.

The historic B-listed building in Clerk Street has lain empty since it closed seven years and its condition is deteriorating.

Now Southside Community Council is calling on the council to instigate compulsory urgent repairs to make the building wind and watertight and begin proceedings to compulsorily purchase the property.

A petition launched at the weekend already has more than 300 signatures. The campaign also has high-profile backing from champion boxer Alex Arthur and local parliamentarians.

Duddingston House Properties, which owns the cinema, want to demolish parts of the building and turn it into a hotel, but the plans were put on ice by a Scottish Government reporter after appeals by Historic Scotland, which said the building should be marketed again in the hope of finding a use which would avoid any demolition.

Community council chair Hilary McDowell said: "The local community is keen that this cinema building is restored and brought back into use as a cinema and arts venue. Several groups who have plans to do just that put in bids on January 5, but DHP has not as yet accepted any of these bids.

"The community council has written to the city council, asking for compulsory urgent repairs to be carried out and to set in motion compulsory purchase proceedings.

Alex Arthur, former WBO world champion, said: "My wife and I had our first date at the Odeon and we continued to go there for years. The Southside would benefit from a local cinema, and I would like to take my sons there some day."

Edinburgh Central Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said the Odeon was an important part of Edinburgh's architectural heritage and a building about which the people of the Southside were extremely passionate.

She said: "It is an important part of Scotland's cinema history and given the love that people have for this old building I would be delighted see it turned in to a facility which could continue as an important cultural venue.

"It is extremely sad to see the level of deterioration to the building's fabric which has developed over the last few years and it is clear action must be taken."

Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: "Iconic and historic buildings must be preserved wherever possible. The Odeon building is one of the finest amphitheatres in Europe and must be preserved. "

A council spokesman said: "There are no plans at this stage to instigate a compulsory purchase order for the site. However, in cases where the owner is considered to be negligent in maintaining a historic building, the council has powers to step in and carry out basic maintenance itself."