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Lee Boyd wins planning for controversial Holyrood plans

Lee Boyd has bagged planning permission for its contentious project to build a new entrance to the Scottish Parliament – branded ‘disrespectful’ by architects

The yet to be costed addition to Enric Miralles’ and RMJM’s 2005 Stirling Prize-winning building was given the green light by Edinburgh City Council’s development management sub-committee this morning.

Objectors included Edinburgh City Council design leader Riccardo Marini who told the AJ the new security screening facility and public entrance was ‘not going to stop any terrorist’.

Gordon McGregor, who worked as site architect for Miralles Tagliabue EMBT and RMJM on the east superstructure where the entrance is proposed said the decision was ‘extremely disappointing if not surprising’.

He said: ‘Scotland has a poor record in looking after its best architecture. The entrance sequence that Enric designed is part of a route that ties the Old Town to the Craggs. The visitors move from this route under the curved canopy turn and enter into a low space then turn again through a double height space into end of the vaulted foyer. It is important that they enter at the end of this space moving under the vaults to the stair to the chamber.

‘The city has made a mistake granting permission to a scheme that ruins this journey. And the fact that there is no understanding among our MSPs as to the quality that they have under their noses suggests that the pattern of neglect suffered by Mackintosh, Thomson or Gillespie, Kidd and Coia buildings will continue.’

Alan Dunlop of Alan Dunlop Architects said the decision was a ‘disappointing but expected conclusion to a flawed brief’.

He added: ‘The client brief only seemed to highlight the flaws in the Miralles design. The public entrance to the original building was always disappointing and a real trial to negotiate, which made a visit to the parliament miserable. 

‘Supposed security and safety issues will always trump design concerns. However, it makes a mockery of the time, energy and huge cost spent on the original design.’

Mark Cousins of Edinburgh-based Oliver Chapman Architects said: ‘Certainly Lee Boyd are good architects – with an enviable track record – but the whole exercise seems an unnecessary additional expense that merely panders to the hawkish anxieties of some insecure apparatchik.’

Peter Wilson, director of Edinburgh Napier University’s Wood Studio, described the move as ‘sadly inevitable’.

He said: ‘The City of Edinburgh Council was never going to reject the Parliament’s application. In any case, if the precedent of the Parliament itself was anything to go by, the planning application was simply a courtesy; as a Crown Building it didn’t actually require permission from the local authority.

‘As for the extension itself, the less said the better. Sticking a dud box onto an organically formed building is just karaoke architecture. Even if the colour and the gob-ons are in the style of the original, it doesn’t take an architectural expert to spot the infelicitous conjunction.’

The entrance is the latest twist in the saga of the building’s construction, which ran 10 times over budget, finished three years late and was subject to a public enquiry.

More than £2 million has been spent on security enhancements since 2007. The Scottish Parliament will begin hunting for a contractor for the project later this week.



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