Next stop for bus depot opposed

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HERITAGE watchdogs today raised fears that plans to rush through the demolition of the former New Street bus depot will leave a massive gap site in the city centre.

Plans to tear down the building have been recommended for approval when they go before the council next week, and the company behind the development is ready to begin demolition within days of getting permission.

But no proposals for what is planned to be built on the site have been drawn up - and developer Mountgrange has said full plans will not be submitted until early next year.

Mountgrange insists it needs to demolish the bus depot now in order to be ready to develop the site as quickly as possible.

And it has pledged 100,000 to temporarily landscape the area and provide a public art installation if development plans are delayed for more than three months.

But heritage watchdogs, tenants of the building and the community council have all raised concerns that the area will simply become another ugly gap site. A report to the council's planning committee says demolition will have a short term "negative impact" on the appearance of the site, which is part of a conservation zone and sits in the World Heritage site.

David McDonald, director of heritage group the Cockburn Association, said demolition should not be allowed until solid plans were in place to develop the site.

He said: "We object in principle to the demolition of any building without planning permission in place for new build.

"Demolition of the New Street garages would put pressure on decision-makers at the council to grant early planning permission for proposals that may need quite some time to mature to an appropriate standard."

Rob Hoon, of the Out of the Blue arts and education trust which uses the building, said: "Our main objection is that they have put forward this plan for demolition without having any idea what they want to build on the site.

"We have had studio space in the building for a long time and played a major role in bringing that area to life.

"We have 50 artists who work at the studio and it is a huge concern that this space could be lost, as developing new studios in the Capital is almost impossible because of the property market.

"We have been served with a notice to quit already and a lot of the artists do not have anywhere to take their work.

"Many of them are considering leaving Edinburgh because of this, and that will be a big loss."

And Canongate Community Council leader Graeme Fairbrother also objected to the development, stating in a letter to the council that it would be "premature" without more detail of what is to be developed there.

A spokesman for Mountgrange said the firm was happy to let people stay longer if there was any delay to the permission for the demolition work, but added that if the plans were approved it was ready to begin within days.

He said: "We are very much aware about the concerns over gap sites in the city.

"Realistically we need to carry out demolition now as it is a long and complex process and we want the site cleared so that we can begin construction as soon as the plans are in place."

A decision on the application will be made by members of the planning committee next week.