Ed­in­burgh con­cert hall costs to ‘dou­ble’

● Le­gal bat­tle over plans for com­plex site might push fi­nal bill to £90m

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By ANDY SHIP­LEY

The cost of de­vel­op­ing a new con­cert hall in Ed­in­burgh may have have risen to as much as dou­ble the orig­i­nal es­ti­mate of £45 mil­lion.

The con­cert hall team re­fused to con­firm or deny sug­ges­tions that the likely cost had risen as high as £90 mil­lion, in­sist­ing fi­nal cost­ings were now un­clear due to the project – de­vel­op­ing the first new con­cert hall in Ed­in­burgh in more than 100 years – hav­ing been put on hold for an un­known amount of time.

De­vel­op­ers be­hind the project are re­port­edly ex­plor­ing other sites.

The soaring cost of Ed­in­burgh’s trou­bled new con­cert hall project is feared to have risen to dou­ble the orig­i­nal es­ti­mate of £45 mil­lion.

The ex­pected bill is un­der­stood to have risen even be­yond the in­flated £70 mil­lion which the project’s back­ers con­firmed in the au­tumn.

The con­cert hall team re­fused to con­firm or deny sug­ges­tions that the likely cost of the am­bi­tious plan to build the first new con­cert hall in Ed­in­burgh for more than a cen­tury had risen as high as £90 mil­lion.

They point out that fi­nal cost­ings are now un­clear due to the project hav­ing been put on hold for an un­known amount of time.

De­vel­op­ers be­hind the project – orig­i­nally priced at £45 mil­lion –are ex­plor­ing other sites amid a le­gal bat­tle over their pro­pos­als.

Im­pact Scot­land se­cured plan­ning per­mis­sion for the Du­nard Centre, to be built be­hind the RBS build­ing at St An­drew Square in April.

But the 1,000-ca­pac­ity con­cert hall, ear­marked to be­come the new home of the Scot­tish Cham­ber Or­ches­tra, is sub­ject to a ju­di­cial re­view be­ing brought by the de­vel­op­ers of the next-door St James Centre against Ed­in­burgh City Coun­cil.

With the le­gal hold-ups, which could take years, im­pact Scot­land is now be­lieved to be seek­ing out where else the con­cert hall could be built.

The project, ini­tially due to open in 2023, could be held up in the courts for years.

One in­dus­try source said: “It’s no sur­prise. The is­sue is that they are go­ing 20 me­tres un­der­ground in the centre of Ed­in­burgh. That is in­evitably go­ing to lead to prob­lems and costly de­lays.”

The news comes as the coun­cil, which is be­ing taken to court for ap­prov­ing plan­ning per­mis­sion, has asked for me­di­a­tion in an ef­fort to set­tle the le­gal chal­lenge.

The au­thor­ity said it can­not com­ment on on­go­ing le­gal pro­ceed­ings.

Con­ser­va­tive econ­omy spokesper­son on Ed­in­burgh City Coun­cil, Cllr John Mclel­lan said: “in such a con­strained site with such sig­nif­i­cant ground con­di­tion prob­lems which had al­ready been iden­ti­fied by the St James peo­ple, it should be no sur­prise when it comes down to plan­ning the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of this project that it’s sig­nif­i­cantly more dif­fi­cult than first thought and any time over­runs re­sult in cost over­runs.

“We saw with the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment that grand de­signs by vi­sion­ary ar­chi­tects on dif­fi­cult sites cost a con­sid­er­ably greater amount than first pro­posed.”

PIC­TURE: HAYES DAVID­SON

The planned con­cert hall is now the sub­ject of a ju­di­cial re­view

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