Landmark set for demolition to make way for civic square

THE controversial decision to pave the way for the demolition of one of Scotland's iconic public buildings has been defended by council chiefs.

Perth's B-listed City Hall could be razed to the ground to create a new civic square under proposals endorsed at a special meeting of Perth and Kinross Council.

Heritage watchdog Historic Scotland said it would be "looking carefully" at the decision.

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A spokesman said: "Perth City Hall is a category-B listed building. It is of more than local significance. We will look very carefully at the justification for their planned proposal for demolition."

The council has agreed to instruct officials to develop detailed design and management proposals for the new public space. Consultations will also be carried out with Historic Scotland before the go-ahead is finally given to send a wrecking ball through the landmark Edwardian building.

A survey carried out by the council has shown 57 per cent of the public and 69 per cent of businesses in the area support some form of demolition of the City Hall, which has lain empty for the past five years.

It was built in 1908 as a concert venue, and plans by developer Wharfside to turn the building into a shopping centre failed last year.

Councillor George Hayton, the deputy leader of the administration, said: "The consultation over City Hall was a comprehensive, specially created engagement programme to find out what the public, businesses and market operators, and event organisers want to see done with the building.

"From the results, we can see that demolition and the creation of a public space could deliver significant benefits.

"Consultants have also looked at all the options, and told us that a new civic space would bring significant benefits to the economy of the city centre by attracting more visitors to the city."

He went on: "Potential options for the re-use or conversion of the City Hall do not have much public support and do not appear to be economically viable in the current financial climate, as we saw with the failure of the Wharfside project. Re-use options would also require significant public subsidy, which was not supported by the majority of respondents and are unlikely to be affordable."

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Mr Hayton added: "The council is committed to securing the right future for the centre of Perth. We want to see a vibrant, viable and thriving Perth city centre. The course of action that has been agreed by the council will help us achieve those aims."

Councillor Alan Grant, another senior member of the administration, said: "This was about moving forward, and making a decision that will benefit our area in the short and long term. A civic square or public space will help to enhance Perth city centre and provide opportunities for growth and development.

"A public civic space would also help to showcase St John's Kirk – the truly historic building in that area – to full effect, and attract many more visitors to the caf quarter of the city centre.

"It would bring substantial economic benefit to local businesses and make the city centre a more attractive place to spend time shopping or relaxing. All of the evidence available to us suggests the council was correct to choose this option."

A spokeswoman for the local authority said: "The council will now develop detailed proposals for full consideration through the planning process. This will involve further consultation with those in the immediate area as well as market operators and event organisers and Historic Scotland."

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