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First Edinburgh concert hall in century backed by planners

The Impact Centre on St Andrews Square would seat 1000 and include a 200-seat studio.

Proposal: The Impact Centre will go before councillors next week.
Proposal: The Impact Centre will go before councillors next week.

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

Planning officers from the city council have recommended the Impact Centre be given the green light by the development management sub-committee next week.

If approved, the 1000-seat auditorium will also include a 200-seat studio for performances, rehearsals and recordings as well as rooms for education and conferences.

An open foyer will host music performances and a cafe bar.

Officers 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".

The Impact Centre, located behind Dundas House at St Andrew Square, 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."

Plan: The Impact Centre will have a 1000-seat auditorium.
Plan: The Impact Centre will have a 1000-seat auditorium.

On April 24, 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.

However bosses at the new St James Centre, which is currently under construction, have raised fears over traffic and deliveries.

The Gleneagles Hotel, under construction at St Andrew Square has also highlighted noise concerns after not being consulted, however noise impact assessments are only required for residential properties.

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 neoclassical 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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