Officials have secured planning consent to convert Perth City Hall, which is said to be based on the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple, into an arts venue “equivalent of the V&A”, expected to attract more than 160,000 visitors each year.
A study has revealed the ambitious project could create work for nearly 200 people, while boosting the local economy by around £1m.
The hall, where Margaret Thatcher gave her first speech as Prime Minister, was slated for destruction in 2013, when members of the formerly SNP-controlled Perth and Kinross Council voted to bulldoze it as part of plans to give the so-called “Fair City” a European-style central square.
But Historic Environment Scotland turned down an application for permission to demolish the hall, calling for better evidence that there was no viable use for it.
The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, one of 19 charities founded by the Prince of Wales, made representations to Historic Scotland making clear that Prince Charles was against the plans to tear down the “much loved” building and the proposal faced widespread local opposition
The council’s present Conservative leader Murray Lyle said it was now “full-steam ahead” for the project.
He said: “The former city hall is a landmark in the heart of Perth. Combined with the ongoing work to transform St Paul’s Church and the recently unveiled plans to create a new public space at Guard Vennel, we’re sending a clear message to businesses, visitors and residents that we are committed to investing in Perth city centre as a place to enjoy food, music, art and heritage.” The work will involve a major overhaul of the former hall and two large gateways – decorated with curved, bronze-coloured metal – which are built on the north and south sides of the building.
The original entrance doors, on the west side, will be replaced with huge windows offering views of the exhibition area, and 70-cover cafe will be created in the lesser hall. Sections of the roof are expected to be repaired or replaced.
Perth and Kinross Council is still hoping to secure the Stone of Destiny as a centrepiece. The authority faces a battle with Edinburgh Castle which wants to retain the relic.