Hotel-led development – Princes/Hanover/Rose Streets

Posted on: December 21, 2023

We can see no evidence of a reasonable attempt to retain listed buildings or unlisted buildings of historic interest

Address: 7 – 11 & 15 – 19 Hanover Street, 40 Rose Street & 70 Princes Street Edinburgh EH2 2DL

Proposal: Alterations and new development including partial demolition and rear /rooftop extensions to form new hotel (Class 7) with ancillary uses and lower and ground floor commercial uses etc.

Reference No: 23/06554/FUL

Closing date for comments: Fri 22 Dec 2023

Determination date: Fri 01 Mar 2024

Cockburn Response

The Cockburn has registered its objection to this project.

We have had the opportunity to visit this development site and have considered the current planning application.  The proposal brings several unused or under used buildings back into productive use, including the former Crawfords Tearoom.  It recreates several active frontages at street level.  These we see are positive aspects of this proposals.

However, whilst we acknowledge that the listed structures involved in this redevelopment have been greatly altered over the years, often unsympathetically it remains the case that the level of intervention and downtakings related to the listed buildings is considerable.  The nature of much of the works appear to us as  examples of ‘facadism’ where little consideration has been given to a more reparative approach to historic building conservation.  This requires proactive intervention by the planning authority and other stakeholders to not just safeguard the city’s historic architectural heritage but to be more interventive in proposals for reusing and repurposing listed buildings as hotels or similar developments in Edinburgh at this time.  The application of section 14 and 59 of the Planning (listed buildings and Conservation)(Scotland) Act requiring special regard into proposals such as these is consideration.  Demolition of a listed building in a World Heritage Site is one of these, and we are disappointed with Historic Environment Scotland’s line that it is not a development of national significance.

The project. as it stands, requires the demolition of a much-altered listed structure on Rose Street and the unlisted remains of an old dairy, both linking back to the First New Town.  It must be acknowledged that this section of Rose Street has been radically altered over the years and retains little of its original urban form.  Nevertheless, the demolition of a listed building in a Conservation Area, if approved, would be a significant departure for policy.  The removal of the unlisted dairy remains would represent the loss of yet another remnant of a bygone age in Edinburgh’s history.  A palimpsest of Edinburgh’s heritage that could never be recovered by future generations.

The hotel, retail space and tearoom created by this development will have a significant and varied service requirement in addition to the obvious need to manage the arrival and departure of hotel guests by various modes across a major north-south arterial route which also carries the proposed Meadows to George Street cycleway.  We do not find that these entirely predictable impacts are as comprehensively addressed as we would expect in applications of this nature and this application is no exception.  A full transport impact assessment, if prepared, appears not to have been loaded onto the planning portal. The main service access is via Rose Street, which is pedestrianised, and the City of Edinburgh Council is moving to discourage vehicular traffic in the city centre and encourage active travel routes and modes. The frequency of movements for hotels in terms of customers and deliveries is significantly higher than other uses, with the potential for significant conflict with other users.   We are not convinced that this has been adequately addressed.

In summary, we can see no evidence of a reasonable attempt to retain listed buildings or unlisted buildings that make a positive contribution to the Conservation Area and World Heritage Site.  Pervious poor alterations to historic fabric should not be used as precedent for potentially greater damage.

There are elements of this scheme which we support such as the reuse of the former Tearooms, and the use of underutilised upper floors for hotel use.  We also support the retention of active frontages on Hanover Street and Princes Street.  Servicing and access requirements need a full review with clear commitments to cause no interruption with movement in this congested and very busy part of the city.

We appreciate the difficulty in developing this site and the much-altered urban form of Rose Street.  However, the onus if firmly on the developer to justify the level of demolitions, removals and interventions proposed and that an alternative approach to the redevelopment of the site is not a viable option.