Bid to turn Radio Forth headquarters into hotel under threat from New Town 'saturation' fears

Plans to transform the historic Edinburgh home of broadcaster Radio Forth into an upmarket New Town hotel face being scuppered after a heritage watchdog warned the area is becoming "saturated" with similar projects.

Councillors are being urged to consider alternative uses for B-listed Forth House, where Radio Forth has been based since the mid-1970s, after plans emerged for a radical revamp of the building.

The three-storey building, which was part of architect James Craig’s original plan for the New Town, dates back to around 1805.

The “apart-hotel” chain Supercity, which already operates in London, Brighton and Manchester, has earmarked the site and an adjacent office block dating back around half a century on Broughton Street Lane for a new development as part of plans to expand across the UK.

Radio Forth's headquarters on Forth Street, in Edinburgh's New Town. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Its new hotel would be ideally located for the likes of the Edinburgh Playhouse, the Omni Centre and the new St James Quarter.

In a submission to the city council, the Cockburn Association has admitted a new hotel seems a "reasonable use" for the building, which has been visited by some of Britain's biggest pop and rock stars.

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However, the group has raised concerns about the "proliferation" of existing and planned hotels in the area.

The Indigo, Premier Inn, Holiday Inn, Marriott and Travelodge chains already operate nearby.

Radio Forth's headquarters on Forth Street, in Edinburgh's New Town. Picture: Lisa Ferguson Forth One, Forth Two, Forth House, Edinburgh

Further developments in the pipeline include the first W hotel in Scotland, due to open at the St James Quarter by the end of the year, and the arrival of a new Gleneagles hotel on St Andrew Square, which is already home to the Edinburgh Grand, Ibis and Malmaison hotels.

Plans lodged by Supercity say the proposal targets business travellers and “extended stay guests”.

It says: “We attract them with our very central locations, our dedication to comfort and style, and our flexible and friendly service.

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"We welcome stays of any length, but our core clients are those that stay time and time again and stay at least one week.

"Our product appeals to a wide range of customers who seek a high-quality place to call home.”

The company says it offers bigger discounts on bookings of 14 nights or more and charges higher prices for short-term stays.

Its submission to the council adds: “Higher prices ensure these guests likely have a higher disposable income and therefore make a greater contribution to the local economy.

“In addition, we do not accept leisure group bookings and have terms and conditions in place to deter parties and celebrations which would disturb our other residents.”

However, the Cockburn Association has told the council: “We can see some merit in the proposals, but believe alternative uses should be pursued before a change of use is considered.

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"Forth Street contains a mixture of use comprising mostly residential with small scale commercial/office use, which is generally compatible with its domestic scale.

“Whilst on the face of it an apartment hotel seems a reasonable new use, the immediate area already has a proliferation of hotels and hotel proposals, suggesting that it has reached a saturation point for such accommodation.

"The Cockburn [Association] suggests that a residential approach would be a more suitable use for this site. The loss of historic features and fabric within the listed building provides opportunities for new housing to be inserted creatively to the existing building.”

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