By Ian Fraser
Published: The Sunday Times
Date: 31 May 2009
THE Intercontinental Hotels Group is refusing to scale down plans for a 17-storey hotel in the West End of Edinburgh, despite fierce opposition to the project from local celebrities and a heated planning inquiry.
Kirk Kinsell, the group’s president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said that the planned hotel would not go ahead unless it had 200 rooms and this meant it had to have 17 storeys on the current site. “Otherwise this project would be commercially unviable. I don’t know too many people who are willing to pay a couple of hundred quid to stay in a subterranean hotel.”
Kinsell also said that, within Intercontinental’s global network – which also includes the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza chains – a 17-storey hotel was a “a mid-height building”. He said the proposed hotel, designed by Edinburgh based Richard Murphy Architects, would create 150 long-term jobs, 200 jobs during two years of construction and attract tourists who would not otherwise come to Scotland’s capital.
The planned Morrison Street property, whose developers are the Ireland-based Tiger Developments, is being opposed by the Cockburn Association, the city’s civic trust, on the grounds that it is too tall and breaks the skyline. It is also opposed by West End Community Council, the Dalry Colonies Residents Association, Gorgie Dalry community council and local residents.
Ken Murray, of Blue Planet Investment Management, Lord McCluskey, the former solicitor-general, and the former Liberal party leader Lord Steel are urgently seeking a meeting with the hotel group’s management in the hope of getting the scheme scaled down. Kinsell seems unlikely to meet them until the planning inquiry is over.
Murray said: “This hideous monstrosity would be more at home in Basingstoke than in Edinburgh. If Intercontinental get away with this it will damage their reputation.” He also said he was surprised that Tiger Developments had agreed to pay the council £2.8m if the project gained consent.
Kinsell said: “On the assumption the hotel gets built in some form or some fashion, we’ve all got to get along. These sorts of processes are very healthy.”
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