But today the Evening News can reveal retail magnate Sir Philip Green will return the famous Forsyth Sphere to the roof of Topshop on Princes Street at the end of June.
Sir Philip’s Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, was told to reinstate the three-tonne metal globe last year after the company removed it without permission in 2012.
An enforcement order gave a deadline of March 15 for the iconic statue to be put back in place – but Arcadia failed to meet this.
In a letter leaked to the News, law firm DWF LLP, acting on behalf of Arcadia, said the company offered its “sincere apologies” for missing the deadline.
It pleaded with city chiefs not to report the breach to the procurator fiscal or issue any fine, citing a “considerable number of logistical challenges in executing the works”.
And it said the contractor originally appointed to carry out the restoration went into administration in February, forcing it to appoint a replacement specialist contractor.
The letter further insisted Arcadia had “impressed upon the contractor the sensitivities around the globe finial’s reinstatement and the need for urgency in completing the works”. It said the company was now “fully committed” to restoring the sphere – giving an anticipated date of June 26 and 27 for work to be carried out.
David McLean, of the Lost Edinburgh website, has been campaigning for its return.
He said: “It’s been an exceptionally long time coming, but this is terrific news. I was beginning to wonder what was going on when Arcadia missed their original deadline, so I’m absolutely thrilled to hear that a date has finally been set for the sphere’s return.
“Hopefully the restoration works on the tower and sphere itself will meet and exceed all expectations – I think the people of Edinburgh are owed that much.”
The A-listed Forsyth Building originally housed a department store run by RW Forsyth. Topshop and Topman are now based on its lower floors, with the upper levels leased to Travelodge.
The intricate statue was taken down in March 2012 for repairs and has languished in a steelyard in Fife, despite repeated calls for it be returned.
A spokeswoman for Topshop said: “We can confirm that the Forsyth Sphere restoration process has now begun. An updated programme with relevant dates will be released to the local council.”
It is understood the council has yet to rule out taking further action against Arcadia.
A spokeswoman said: “It is encouraging that Arcadia has given a date for the return of the sphere, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation.”