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4* Hotel Planning and Listed Building Consent Approved!

Let’s mark Greek Thomson’s Bicentenary with a signal success; the preservation and return to commerical sustainability of the world-renowned architectural masterpiece that is The Egyptian Halls. Very recently there have been several articles and programmes by very influential Heritage stakeholders and to get a perspective of this please;

BBC MasterbuilderUrban Realm Article
Nooks & Corners Private EyeSTV Artery

And to summarise in no particular order the current GCC Councillors, Private Eye’s Piloti, BBC/ David Hayman, The Herald and Times, The RIAS, The Greek Thomson Society, The Scottish Civic Trust, The AHSS, The Princes Regeneration Trust, Joanne Blythman, Murray Grigor, The tenants/owners on Union Street, GCC DRS, HES, The Culture Minister, Urban Realm and not forgetting the signatories of a 7,000+ Petition (see attached) have all stated the Egyptian Halls has to be saved, returned to commercial sustainability and in parallel WE ALL KNOW this would begin the long overdue regeneration of Union Street.

At a recent meeting with GCC DRS an objective assessment of all options was undertaken and it was stressed by all that the building had to be saved. And also in parallel this then sees the Scaffolding that has been in place for 7 years and now needed for public safety reasons removed within 3 years.

Currently TMP/Add Cons are therefore preparing two scheme options;
• Preservation
• Façade Retention
• End uses; Hotel/Office/Residential/ Restaurant

And updated costs and Development Appraisals will be produced. Then both scheme options with costs/projected valuations will be presented for discussion. Further if the goodwill generated then can be galvanized, we can then begin to generate the momentum that can deliver genuine and transparent collaboration to reconcile this horrendous 19-year-old legacy, by taking a 25-year plus perspective! 

Then the Egyptian Halls Project can be delivered at the least cost to the public purse meanwhile delivering a fair commercial return to the co-owners for their 19-year investment.  However GCC DRS do also need support and understanding from the wider Scottish Government, something that will surely now be forthcoming.

Having attended a Glasgow Council pre-election Hustings event I was heartened by the plans by all political parties to reconcile, for the long term, the incumbent problems relating to the preservation and sustainable use of Glasgow’s hugely rich and diverse built heritage. And this dovetailed very well with how to leverage and optimise where possible built heritage, architectural legacy and pedestrian connectivity.

However let’s also focus on achieving a solution, which could be the Mackintosh Thomson Mews concept (click here) and it works if it’s full Preservation as well as Façade Retention. As for both the Rear Wall has to be replaced. Mackintosh –Thomson Mews would become a centerpiece to allow Glasgow to leverage its world-renowned architecturally biased cultural assets including the creation of undercover Gourmet Food Market.  Therefore allowing Egyptian Halls to still be preserved and returned to a very vibrant commercial future. As well as creating for the Lighthouse a paradigm improvement for its location and access.

Lets also be clear that the now 19-year scheme delay was caused by minor but irreversible legal decision made by GCC DRS in Feb 1998, which it was WITHOUT DOUBT NOT intended to achieve. This is a legacy issue that can of course be reconciled and is not the fault of anyone at GCC 2017. However for the record this type of Amendment is now only permitted with the written consent of the relevant Scottish Minister.

For the benefit of anyone who believes that the owners have been negligent in their approach and dealings or lacking in commitment, can I remind everyone of the July 2010 quote from GCC’s Bailie Cameron’s letter to then and still Culture Minister Hyslop

"As you may know the Council has been working with USP Properties, the owners of the magnificent grade A listed Egyptian Halls building in Union Street Glasgow for many years in order to help them bring the building into a single ownership and, having achieved this, to bring forward suitable proposals for the refurbishment of the building for an appropriate productive use.

 "A considerable amount of correspondence and many meetings, over a prolonged period of time, have already taken place between the developer and his agents, the City Council and Historic Scotland - and the developer has committed very significant expenditure on bringing the building into a single ownership, on preparing a range of technical and conservation studies, and in completing both option and development appraisals for a variety of potential end uses. 

 "We have now reached a very critical stage in these discussions whereby there is a clear, but very time limited, opportunity to secure the development.  The challenges to do so remain formidable”

And please can it be reinforced the Upper Floors have been vacant for now 37 years, yes that’s 37 years! This is a systemic problem that requires effective collaboration from all stakeholders. Who within GCC, Culture Ministry, and Scottish Government will look to slice the Gordian Knot, which has bedeviled this Grade A world-renowned architectural masterpiece since the days of the Moscow Olympics and Mrs Thatcher’s first term as Prime Minister?

For and on behalf of EHBPT, USP, USI


DEREK SOUTER
Director

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