City planners have recommended enforcement action over the unauthorised removal of the three-tonne metal globe.
And if Sir Philip, chairman of Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, fails to return the landmark to its rightful place, the council would carry out the work – including restoration of the globe, repairs to the turret on the roof and hoisting it back into position by crane – then reclaim the cost, estimated at £200,000, from the magnate.
The globe is currently in a yard in Fife after being taken down in March 2012 for urgent repairs.
But a report to today’s development management sub-committee said there was no need for the sphere to have been removed. It said a conservation report submitted to the council by the building’s owners showed the globe was in a poor state of repair but offered little evidence that the works were required urgently in the interests of public safety.
“It would appear that although the works were necessary they were not urgently necessary at the time the globe was removed.”
The report said its removal had adversely impacted the Capital’s skyline and correspondence with the owners had seen “little meaningful progress”.
The Forsyth Building, originally a department store run by RW Forsyth, was built in 1906 as Scotland’s first steel-framed structure, and the globe on top – which measures 4.7 metres by 2.6 metres – soon became a landmark.
David McLean, of the Lost Edinburgh website, who has collected 3700 signatures on a petition calling for the statue’s return, said it was crucial the council went ahead with the enforcement notice.
He said: “Forget for a second this is a total breach of planning regulations, it is now clear they did not need to take it down at all.
“Arcadia take in £2.4 billion a year so they can afford to restore the globe and put it back.
“We don’t want a precedent to be set. If we allow wealthy companies to ride roughshod over the city’s heritage, especially in such a prominent site as Princes Street, what next?
“I really hope the council shows the necessary bottle.”