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10 Design takes on contentious Edinburgh New Town site

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Global practice 10 Design is drawing up new plans for a potentially contentious development of a former Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) site in Edinburgh’s New Town 

A previous and controversial proposal by Michael Laird Architects, which included up to 400 new homes in a series of pavilion blocks on the site between Dundas Street and King George V Park, was dropped in 2018.

The design came in for criticism from nearby residents and from Historic Environment Scotland, which had objected to the scale and layout of the development, claiming it would have had an adverse impact on the neighbouring World Heritage Site to the south.

Instead of revising its plans, project backer and then-landowner RBS sold the 2.4ha plot in May this year to local property company Ediston and European real estate firm Orion Capital Managers.

The latest scheme, which is currently out to public consultation, has now been dubbed New Town North development, and is being billed as one of ’Edinburgh’s largest development projects for more than a decade’.

The concept plans, which will see existing buildings flattened (see below), will feature 100 new homes, together with 200 build-to-rent flats, 9,300m² of offices, a new hotel and ’a range of local amenities’.

The RBS first developed the site in 1978 to house offices and a data centre but moved out a few years ago. Before that, the plot was home to St Bernard’s Football Club, which disbanded in 1947. 

Ross McNulty, development director at Ediston, said: ’The consultation process is progressing well and we are enjoying constructive and direct dialogue both with our immediate neighbours and the City of Edinburgh’s civic stakeholders.

We’re aware that this is a complex and large site

’From our discussions with the local business community, we are aware of the impact that a large redundant site can have on the local area – and the huge potential of creating a new attractive destination and focal point for the area. Our research shows the significant investment benefits that a high-quality new development would bring to the Edinburgh economy, as well as helping to meet the pressing need for high-quality new homes, offices and local amenities.’

He added: ’This is a complex and large site with important links to some of Edinburgh’s finest streets and green spaces, and we are making sure we take the right amount of time to consult properly with local people to deliver a […] development to benefit both the local community and the wider city.’

A formal planning application will be submitted by the  to Edinburgh City Council in spring next year.

Rbs building in dundas street which will be demolished

The vacant RBS buildings which will be demolished to make way for the new scheme.

The vacant RBS buildings which will be demolished to make way for the new scheme.

A history of the existing buildings on the site

In January 1975 the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) General Purposes Committee met to discuss the acquisition of purpose-built premises separate from the Head Office complex at St Andrew Square. The site was to become the new home of the rapidly expanding Electronic Data Processing, Clearing and Registrar’s departments. Banking was becoming increasingly automated and a new, dedicated, secure location for the bank’s computer and network systems was urgently required. After extensive consideration, which included proposals for locations outside of Edinburgh, it was agreed that a site on the corner of Dundas Street and Fettes Row should be purchased.

Construction on the building, designed by architects Michael Laird & Partners, began in November 1978. Just two years later the first computer room was fully operational and by June 1981 the whole building was occupied. About 700 staff worked in the 150,000 square feet of modern open-plan office space.

 In March 1995 the bank acquired 113 Dundas Street from Britannia Life. This building, completed in 1991, provided a further 70,000 square feet of high quality open-plan office space arranged around a central atrium. The two buildings operated in isolation until 2005 when a link building was constructed to bring them and their staff together.

Royal Bank of Scotland archive

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