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St James Quarter

Posted on 27 Jan 2015 by Marion

14/05263/AMC - St James Quarter

Approval of matters specified in condition 23 (i), (iii), (vii), (ix), (x), (xi), (xvi) and (xvii) of Planning Permission 08/03361/OUT relating to number of residential/commercial/business units, design of external features and materials, pedestrian and cycle access arrangements, treatment to adopted roads or footways, car parking venting, servicing, surface water and drainage, and hard and soft landscaping details | St James Centre Edinburgh EH1 3SS

 

The Association has studied this application in detail.  We are supportive of the redevelopment of this site which will see the removal of what many consider to be one of the ugliest blots on Edinburgh’s urban landscape. The introduction of a bold gallery design in a geometrically pure crescent shape linking Multrees Walk to Waterloo Place is welcome as is the new emphasis given to the approach from Little King Street and potentially in the future from Register Place.   We are supportive of the urban design improvement of narrowing Leith Street to something resembling its original building line and with this removing the pedestrian barrier and traffic island down the centre of the street.  We welcome the removal of the pedestrian bridge to the Greenside car park, which though of an interesting modern design does considerably impede views up and down Leith Street as well as segregating pedestrians from the street, causing loss of vitality. We would strongly suggest that these improvements are linked by a planning condition to the narrowing of the street which brings about considerable development gain for the applicant to ensure that they do take place and would hope that as part of that the redundant bridge structure might be relocated to provide a crossing point in another part of the city, such as over the Water of Leith or in Leith Docks.

We are also supportive of the re-introduction of a new St. James Square following the grid layout, though not the orientation and dimensions of the original set at an angle to the adjacent first New Town, which creates some continuity with the past.  We have (and had at outline stage) mixed views about the introduction of a rotunda building in the square; there is certainly a long historical precedent for such structures working well as urban design set-pieces but there is an equal argument that the whole scheme would benefit from an open space here so that this was a true square of very high quality and, unlike any other square in the city, paved, of intimate scale and surrounded by retail frontages.   As for the rotunda building creating a skyline feature on the axis of the George Street vista this was the cause of considerable controversy in 2008 when a so-called glass “gherkin” design was proposed along the lines of a miniature 30 St. Mary Axe in London.  At outline stage after public consultation this was portrayed as having been dropped although the bulk massing did remain in the approved floor plan perimeters.  We cannot comment on this detail design in this application as it remains as a gap in the drawings, however as part of this design layout we would comment that there is a good case both economically in terms of quality of environment attracting high rents and on aesthetic grounds for there not being any rotunda building at all and, that as a feature breaking through the skyline and compromising the silhouette of the Melville Monument in St. Andrews Square when viewed from George Street and on numerous other vistas across the city, any feature would have to be of the highest aesthetic quality and make an undoubted positive contribution to the skyline.

 

read our letter for our full comments on this application but, in summary, we raise the following points:

  • the new St James Quarter should be clad in buff sandstone, not limestone as proposed which has no relevance for Edinburgh
  • the centrepiece rotunda building, hotel, would have to be of the highest design quality and an object with appropriate silhouette in order to justify appearing on the skyline
  • Leith Street frontage should be an active one