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BDP blasted over Edinburgh plans

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Heritage watchdogs have slammed a controversial proposal by BDP to replace Edinburgh's historic Waverley Station with a retail and underground station complex 'like Birmingham New Street'.

The groups - who have won the support of local mover and shaker Richard Murphy - are furious with BDP's £630 million plans. They are also objecting to the designs because the new development will stand 3m higher than the existing station, blighting views across the city - a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site.

A Network Rail spokesman admitted that there is a 'general recognition that some of the building is not worth keeping', but insisted that some of the more significant parts, including the ticket hall, would be retained.

The news has enraged the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS), which claimed that the owner, Network Rail, and the Waverley Steering Group have consistently dodged questioning about plans for the site.

AHSS director Sean O'Reilly fears the development will mirror Birmingham New Street, arguably one of Britain's most unsuccessful stations. The 1960s concrete shopping complex replaced a Victorian structure built just eight years after Edinburgh Waverley.

'Network Rail compares the development to Birmingham New Street station, but says it won't look like it.However, the cross-section of the proposal suggests it will look exactly like it, ' says O'Reilly.

'Although Network Rail has government support for building higher than the existing station, this is subject to planning permission and is not a presumption for a redevelopment.

'Commercial pressure does not exist in Edinburgh for this type of retail development, and certainly not at the expense of losing the fulcrum to the World Heritage site. It's an unnecessary demolition of a Grade A building, ' he added.

The Edinburgh Heritage Trust (EHT) is equally angered by Network Rail's suggestions that only certain aspects of Waverley are worth preserving.

'This is not good news. The whole building is of historical interest, from the ticket hall to the glass roof, ' says EHT urban design adviser Jon Mengham.

BDP's rivals are calling on Network Rail to open the design stage to competition. Richard Murphy Architects has approached Network Rail with alternatives to BDP's ideas but claims the agency 'doesn't want to know'.

Like BDP, Richard Murphy proposes to demolish the existing building. However, both the station and shopping areas would be daylight lit and the structure would not obscure the Edinburgh valley skyline.

'Edinburgh needs a radical solution that's spacious, light and airy and makes commercial sense, ' said Murphy.

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