Like others, I have misgivings about the proposed Scottish Chamber Orchestra concert hall while welcoming its arrival in principle (your report, 6 December) yet I hardly think those behind the St James Quarter are well-placed to complain, given their own plans for a hotel which, in the words of Edinburgh writer Candia Mcwilliam, resembles “something the citizens are enjoined to pick up after their dogs”.
As far as the St James development is concerned our planning authorities surrendered impartiality in June 2016 when both the Scottish Government and the City of Edinburgh Council signed a Growth Accelerator Model agreement with THI Real Estate. This was some weeks after its parent company, US pension fund TIAA, had upped its 60 per cent equity stake in THI’S predecessor, Henderson Global Investments, to 100 per cent.
Under this novel arrangement, Scottish taxpayers were obliged to provide TIAA, a US corporation which currently has around $1 trillion under management, with a subsidy of some $100 million. Presumably this state assistance had usefully augmented the project’s value when TIAA
sold on 75 per cent of its stake to Dutch Fund Manager APG the following year.
TIAA’S mixed proposal may be losing its lustre thanks to the sorry state of bricks-andmortar retail and the threat to the hotel trade from Airbnb, and it is entitled to protect its shareholders’ interests, but its interference in planning matters is questionable. It recently, and successfully, objected to the proposal to build stateof-the-art film studios on the outskirts of Edinburgh, and now seeks to sabotage plans for a much needed concert hall in the New Town. I hope at least a few of our hapless councillors will stand up to this global corporate bullying.
DAVID J BLACK
Glanville Place, Edinburgh