2005-10-29

Intolerance: Waverley Steps Proposals "A Carbuncle"?

Sir Rocco Forte last night attacked plans for a new station entrance to be built next to his flagship Scottish hotel, describing the design as a 'carbuncle' and an 'eyesore'. Speaking at 'The Balmoral Hotel' yesterday, the 60-year-old businessman said he was angry and upset over 'Network Rail's' attempts to replace the famous 'Waverley Steps' with escalators and a glass lift. He said the 'monstrosity' of steel and glass, which would rise up in front of the windows of the hotel's 'Sir Walter Scott' suite, would obscure the view of 'Edinburgh Castle' as well as invade the privacy of his guests. As the first hotel bought by Mr.Forte, who owns a string of hotels across Europe, he admits feeling nostalgia for the historic building and believes the plans would ruin its facade. If the plans are given the green light in the next week, the 6.6_million_GBP project would begin in 2006-01. Mr.Forte said he at first thought the plans for the new entrance, which he claims will cost the five-star hotel 3_million_GBP/year in lost bookings, were part of a hoax.
'I thought it was a joke but when I was told it wasn't, I said, "You can't be serious."
'The whole thing is the wrong way round for a start; if I was building a hotel I wouldn't start with the door, but this is what they are doing, which seems a strange way to go about it. 'If there were plans to put such a "carbuncle" anywhere else in the world people would be "up in arms" but here there seems to be no objection -- which makes me angry.
'It has "all the hallmarks" of a "rushed job".
'What irritates me is the way it is moving forward in such an unintelligible way.
'It is also ill-considered to have the main entrance on Princes Street as the traffic congestion would be horrendous.
'It is just outrageous.'
He added that he was not against revamping the dark entrance with lights and shelter but the present plans he says go too far by blocking the ground floor windows along the west side.
'The designs need to be considerably modified before these plans can go ahead.
'I ask my advisors daily for the latest developments on these plans as I am very upset about them,' he said.
'The city's head of planning, Alan Henderson, says this monstrosity won't obscure my guests' views.
'Well, I would invite him to come here and I will show him how it reaches three-quarters of the way up the windows. 'It needs to be much lower, with the lifts maybe on their sides, like how they operate in the legs of the Eiffel Tower.'
A Network Rail spokesman said:
'We are hopeful that planning permission for the new entrance to Waverley Station will be granted next week. 'Our architects have been extremely flexible about the designs and have taken on board comments from interested parties including heritage groups and the Balmoral Hotel. We are confident that the steps design will bring benefits to everyone.'
A city spokesman said:
'The report from the head of planning and strategy on the proposal for improvements to the steps at "Waverley Station" has now been passed to the planning committee for consideration.
'This is next due to be heard on Wednesday of next week after a site visit this week.'
A single 'up' escalator for the 12_m ascent from the station is planned, to transport commuters to a new mezzanine plaza off Princes St, while three 'down' escalators will carry passengers in the other direction and provide access to 'The Princes Mall' shopping centre. Councillors will have the final say on the proposals at the meeting on Wednesday 2005-11-02, but planning officials have recommended they give it 'the green light'. Earlier this month, shop owners warned if the plans got the go-ahead, there would be no businesses left on the steps by the time construction is finished in 2007-11. During this week's meeting, rail officials were told they should be trying to create something akin to the art nouveau entrances to 'The Paris Metro', designed by Mr.Hector Guimard from 1899 to 1905. 'Furious Forte says 'carbuncle' plan for Waverley entrance oversteps mark', Angie Brown, The Scotsman, 2005-10-29, Sa

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