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Councillors on the Development Management Subcommittee this morning granted planning permission for Legal & General Investment's plans to rebuild behind the façade of 109–12 Princes St and 144–50 Rose Street. The developer means to create mixed hotel, restaurant, rooftop bar, health suite/gym and retail uses on the site of the former Debenham’s department store (20/05444/FUL).

As part of the proposal, the former Conservative Club staircase will be turned and repositioned to form a visual centrepiece on the ground floor.

In addition, a commemorative stained glass window will be repositioned so as to once again benefit from natural light.

Cllr Joanna Mowat (Conservative) approved of the scheme, and – dizzy with enthusiasm – was moved to quote from a speech made by Benjamin Disraeli, to whom the window is dedicated.

Disraeli delivered the speech in Edinburgh on 29 October 1867, and in it referred at length to the Reform Bill aimed at widening the franchise. Mowat, however, sustainably reused the address to applaud the current instance of pragmatic and principled planning on Princes Street:

‘In a progressive country, change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws, and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.’

Whatever that meant, Mowat’s sense was clearly that the developers had brought forward a positive contribution to the city centre.

The Planning Convener, Cllr Neil Gardiner (SNP), appeared pleased if taken aback by this blend of planning policy and political history. He repeated at some length and in various permutations that the Administration embraces positive change, but acknowledged at the end that he didn’t know a great deal about the former prime minister.

Perhaps if Gardiner had known more, he would have quoted from a later passage in the same speech: the one in which Disraeli proclaimed, ‘Now my lords and gentlemen, I have always considered that the Tory party was the national party of England.’


[Image top-right: Wikimedia Commons.]