So, it has taken a while for due process to work through, but yesterday notice was given that the third of four planning applications pending for JD Wetherspoon in Edinburgh had been granted. The Council has given the go-ahead for the Jimmy Chung’s on Waverley Bridge to be converted into one of their pubs, with one minor condition; the ‘proposed external colour scheme is appropriate to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and World Heritage Site’. No neon pink or lime green then, presumably.
Once the UNESCO pantone-chart has been consulted, and some kind of arrangement made with Jimmy Chung’s, it looks like we’re set for an Edinburgh Tap-style Wetherspoon at the entrance to the station – assuming the operation of the bar is approved via a variation application to the existing licence. It’s interesting that very few people seemed unduly bothered with this one of the four proposals – I wondered at the time what effect the lone objection to the Waverley Bridge proposal would have,* given that the Victoria Street plan was met with such vociferous negativity.
* It was detailed in the Council report that said objection contained ‘various comments regarding the proposed operator and nature of their operation’
Mind you, history is on the side of the Waverley scheme as the building on the bridge used to be a pub before it was turned into a restaurant in the mid-2000’s. The planned beer garden to the rear will certainly have stunning views looking up to the Balmoral and Scotsman Hotels, and it should do hugely well you would have thought, given the amount of pedestrian activity on the bridge. It also means an uncertain future for the Nor Loch, the bar inside the station – particularly given the general consensus on Trip Advisor. (“Don’t bother complaining pal, we don’t care.”)
In terms of the bigger picture, it was reported a couple of weeks ago that the Lothian Road plan for the Picture House was ‘set’ to be approved, following the release of a Development Management Sub-Committee report which concluded the application be granted. But, as of this morning, that decision is still pending, so nothing concrete has been decided – and the renovation of the HMV Picture House remains much-discussed. Still, unless something happens at the eleventh hour, it looks as if that will also be granted, and the 13,466-strong petition against will count for nothing.
If this is the case – will JDW be satisfied with the final outcome of all this? They were unsuccessful in applications covering the Empire Bingo Hall on Nicholson Street and the plan for St John’s Church on Victoria Street, both of which were rejected on grounds of noise and suitability (it was noted that there were no residents nearby to Waverley Bridge – the nearest being 70m away). Aside from the time it has taken, to be granted two of the four – assuming the Lothian Road plan is eventually given the green-light – will undoubtedly be seen as a success for Wetherspoon, and give them seven pubs in Edinburgh (plus two more at the airport).
It always seemed to me like the Victoria Street plan was a knee-jerk, based on the stunning building there and what could potentially be done with it – the plans JDW submitted were certainly ambitious, before they were turned down. The Empire Bingo Hall is certainly on a busy street, and right next to several interchange bus stops – but the two sites approved I would think give Wetherspoon the best bang for their buck. The constant streams of traffic along Lothian Road and to and from the station will surely make these two new pubs (if the doors eventually open) successful, pretty much from day one. Whether that’s a good thing for Edinburgh depends very much on your personal opinion…