Capital’s concrete concert hall plans backed before crunch hearing

Proposals to build the first new concert hall in Edinburgh for more than 100 years have been backed by planners ahead of a crunch hearing.

New designs for IMPACT Scotland new concert hall in St Andrew Square
New designs for IMPACT Scotland new concert hall in St Andrew Square

Planning officers have recommended that permission to build the £45m Impact Centre be given the green light when proposals are determined by the development management sub-committee next week.

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If approved by councillors next Wednesday, the 1,000-seat auditorium will also include a 200-seat studio for performances, rehearsals and recordings as well as rooms for education and conferences. The open foyer will host music performances and a cafe bar.

Officials said that the Impact Centre “would make a valuable contribution to the city’s cultural infrastructure and provide opportunities for its use by the wider community”.

Located behind Dundas House at St Andrew Square, it will also become home to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and will be used as a venue for the Edinburgh International Festival.

Sir Ewan Brown, chairman of IMPACT Scotland, said: “We look forward to presenting the case for Edinburgh’s first purpose-built music venue in over 100 years to the committee.

“This is an opportunity for the city to raise its game in terms of cultural infrastructure and provide a world-class venue for the people of Edinburgh and its many visitors.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, councillors will listen to presentations from Richard Price from New Town and Broughton Community Council, Adam Wilkinson from Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and Terry Levinthal from heritage watchdog, the Cockburn Association. City centre councillors and other interested parties, including Impact Scotland, will also be given the chance to have their say on the plans.

The proposed development has gained the backing of the Cockburn Association, Essential Edinburgh, Historic Environment Scotland, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and the community council.

Bosses at the new St James Centre, which is currently under construction, have raised fears over traffic and deliveries while the Gleneagles Hotel, being built at St Andrew Square, has highlighted noise concerns. The St James Centre has also raised concerns about the use of concrete for the new concert hall, labelling the material “completely inappropriate”.

In a report to councillors, planning officers have highlighted that although the proposals do not “impact adversely and significantly on city-wide views”, it will “affect the spatial characteristics of the planned First New Town”.

But officers have praised the “simplicity of the architectural form and materials”, believing it would provide a “more cohesive backdrop to Dundas House”.

The report adds: “Therefore, on balance, and taking its proposed use into consideration, it is considered that the proposed development does not remove or detract from key characteristic components of the conservation area that gives the area its special interest.

“It will contribute to the architectural quality of the area with a contemporary high quality building designed to respond to its historic and modern urban environment. The proposal’s gentle domed roof, symmetry to the axis of George Street, glazed colonnade and elliptical form of the hall assist in mediating between the scale of the neo-classical Dundas House and the contemporary Edinburgh St James development.

“In this regard, the special character and appearance of the New Town Conservation Area will be preserved and enhanced.”

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