Internal and external alterations relating to Forth House

Posted on: February 10, 2022

The Cockburn believes alternative uses should be pursued before a change of use to a hotel is considered. We do not support this application.

Address: 13 – 17 Forth Street & 6 Broughton Street Lane Edinburgh

Proposal:  Internal and external alterations relating to the reconfiguration and refurbishment of Forth House to accommodate the redevelopment of the site for the change of use from office to hotel.

Reference No: 22/00148/LBC

Closing date for comments: 18/02/2022

Determination date: 16/03/2021

Result: Pending

Cockburn Response

The Association has studied the plans to convert Forth House into an apartment hotel.  In examining the plans in detail, we can see some merit in the proposals but believe that alternative uses should be pursued before a change of use to class 7 is considered.  As such, we do not support this application.

There are two main components to the site, the listed buildings on Forth Street and the modern intervention in Broughton Street Lane. The useful Heritage Statement makes clear the significant if not total removal of the historic fabric of the Georgian buildings which were essentially gutted in 1970 for a warehouse development.  This included the removal of two entrance doors and associated platts on Forth Street.

Forth Street contains a mixture of use comprising mostly residential with small scale commercial/office use which is generally compatible with its domestic scale. Playfair House is a modern 1970s office block with little architectural merit.

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.  Broughton Street Lane with its very narrow pavements and constrained access points at Union Street and Broughton Street make it unsuitable for any substantive increase in traffic.  The proposals suggest all servicing and most customer access will be from the lane, which does not seem appropriate.

With regard to Playfair House, we appreciate the proposals to rework the structure as opposed to complete demolition.  However, its scale and form remain alien in this narrow mews lane.  The recent housing to the north of the site sits far better in terms of scale and mass.  As such, we argue that the existing height of Playfair House should not be taken as the benchmark for new development. Instead, a reinstatement of a mews scale building would offer fair greater potential to preserve and enhance the character of this part of the New Town Conservation Area.

Preferred approach

The Cockburn suggests that a residential approach would be a more suitable us 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.  The internal reinstatement of individual feus widths on Forth Street with reintroduced entrance platts would enhance the character of the street and Conservation Area and reinforce its domestic use and scale.

There is considerable merit architecturally and in conservation terms for the removal of Playfair House and its replacement with mews buildings of a similar scale to the original buildings to the west and the new dwelling houses to the east.

Given current land values and the demand for housing in the city, such a scheme would be commercially viable and profitable.