Plans for Edinburgh’s tallest building revised over risk to views

Original plans for the building by Keppie Design
Original plans for the building by Keppie Design

Plans for a hotel which what would have become the tallest building in Edinburgh have been scaled back due to concerns over the city’s skyline.

Under proposals first unveiled 12 months ago, the 400-room hotel situated to the north east of the existing shopping mall at the city’s Waterfront, would have been over 310ft high, dwarfing the church spires of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Barclay Church and The Hub.

Now, according to The Herald, the revised 230-room hotel will not sit much higher than the nine-storey Ocean Point office block next door.

Applicants Ocean Terminal said it reduced the height of the original scheme to 180ft “due to concerns over the adverse impact the proposal would have on key aspects of the city’s skyline from a number of important viewpoints”.

It is understood there were fears over the impact on key views from Edinburgh Castle and Calton Hill.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) also warned the structure could upset birds breeding nearby and called for a study to assess any potential shadows which could be cast over the tern colony during the breeding season.

In July, Iain Rennick, Forth unit manager at SNH, said: “The application site is approximately 650ft to 820ft from the Imperial Dock Lock Leith Special Protection Area (SPA), classified for its breeding tern colony, and around 600 metres from the Firth of Forth SPA, classified largely for its wintering wildfowl.

“The proposal could affect internationally important natural heritage interests and we therefore object to this proposal until further information is obtained from the applicant.”

However, following the severe curtailing of the building’s height, Carolyn Clark, Forth operations at Scottish Natural Heritage, wrote back with an update.

She said: “Our previous response was based on a proposed hotel of up to 330ft, located to the north east of Ocean Terminal.

“The reduced height of the proposal to 180ft means that a new shadow case study is no longer required and therefore we withdraw our holding objection.”

Planners have said the smaller building meets city building guidelines, and have recommended that it be granted permission to go ahead.

A report to go before city planners states: “The sightlines which cross the Port of Leith were set out to protect the open backdrop of long views of the Castle Hill, Calton Hill, Salisbury Crags and St Mary’s Cathedral spires. In addition, there is a key view of Inchkeith Island from the Castle ramparts to be safeguarded.”

However, they have advised developers to keep the birds in mind.

The report stated: “The selection of materials for building finishes, glazing and lighting overlooking sensitive areas for coastal birds should be developed in consultation with SNH, in order to ensure no detrimental impact on the special protected area.”

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