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Campaigners fight to save Perth City Hall from demolition

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Both SAVE and Royal Institute of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) have objected to plans to demolish the listed Perth City Hall in Scotland

The building, which is celebrating its centenary this year, is set to be flattened to make way for a new £4 million public square.

Campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage said the neo-classical  building’s demolition would be an ‘act of civic vandalism’.

In a statement the organisation added: ‘The proposed replacement with an open square is significantly flawed. Such a space would be underused and windswept for much of the year, and the perimeter buildings, St John’s Kirk excluded, are unassuming and not befitting of a grand civic open space. The council’s rhetoric overlooks these points.’

‘Demolition would be an act of civic vandalism’

More than 850 people and organisations have voiced their objection to the controversial demolition plans, including the RIAS.

There are two alternative conservation-led schemes for the site, including a new proposal to convert the building for hotel use.

In a letter Historic Scotland expressed their view that alternative schemes ‘should be given every opportunity to progress’ before an application for demolition can be fully considered.

Built between 1909 and 1914 to designs by HA Clifford and Lunan, the building was used as a concert hall until 2005 when a new venue was built nearby.  Since then the building has remained empty.

This is the second demolition application for the building submitted in the last three years. In 2011 SAVE objected to identical proposals for demolition. Permission was granted, but Historic Scotland then overturned Perth and Kinross’ approval, on the grounds that the building had not been offered to the market for alternative uses, and the economic benefits of a new square as claimed by the Council could not be substantiated.

A proposal had been submitted to turn the building into an indoor market by Perth City Market Trust and the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, but this was rejected by the council.

SAVE caseworker Mike Fox said: ‘Perth City Hall is a majestic civic building, one of the finest in Scotland, and has a strong presence in the surrounding streetscape. Its category B listing marks it out as a building of national importance and all efforts should be made to find a new use for it. It is clearly capable of reuse, as demonstrated by recent and current proposals, and we call upon Perth and Kinross Council to fully consider these alternatives to demolition.’

RIAS secretary Neil Baxter, added: ‘The opening of Perth Concert Hall replaced the former use of the Edwardian City Hall.  As both buildings are owned by the local authority they didn’t want to compete on their own turf and started to pursue the demolition of their own, hundred year old building. 

‘That would be fine if the historic building was not of national importance and international interest. Perhaps more important, the Concert Hall is part of the densely built fabric of the city which, like so many wind-swept Scottish places, has a medieval streetscape that lends unique character. 

‘The Council’s proposal, to replace the building with a gap site, or in their terms, a ‘piazza’ indicates a serious misunderstanding of the character of the city which they were elected to protect and benefit. Remove this key building and you do fundamental damage, civic vandalism which would be regretted for decades to come.

‘The Concert Hall, a fine, robust, adaptable building still has a major contribution to make. It needs the imagination of a responsible administration to restore and re-use it positively. It is easy to conspire to destroy anything good. Saving something good, as a legacy for the future, requires vision and imagination. 

‘How about, instead of spending £4 million of public money on destroying something irreplaceable, spend £1 million as a bounty to support a new viable commercial enterprise within the Concert Hall’s beautiful historic walls. Then the people of New York and very many folk closer to home would be singing Perth’s praises, rather than deriding its folly.  Perth Council should stop acting like a town council and become a city council. All of Scotland would benefit, Perth most of all!’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I am concerned and upset that there are moves (again) to demolish this wonderful historic building. I am the architect who achieved a listed building consent and planning for the City Hall's adaptation and renovation in 2006, with the support (then) of Perth & Kinross Council and Historic Scotland. The only thing that stopped the renaissance of this much-loved building was the recent recession which now appears to be easing. Our scheme was for managed speciality retail, a craft market, and restaurants, together with access for local community groups (which they had historically enjoyed). The scheme was much praised for its vision, transparency and care for the historic stone fabric.

    The eradication of the building would be a violation of the City Centre, and would result in an enormous plaza between between two "unfortunate" , and architecturally inferior buildings - the St Johns Shopping Centre and the historic Kirk itself.

    Please count on me as a supporter to help save the City Hall !

    John Lyall, Lyall Bills & Young Architects, London EC1

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