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Frustrations boil over in Egyptian Halls impasse

September 21 2010

Frustrations boil over in Egyptian Halls impasse
Private Eye has lambasted the “blinkered bureaucratic obstructiveness of Historic Scotland” in an outspoken attack on the 30 year prevarication which has led to the deterioration of one of Alexander Thomson’s greatest surviving works, Egyptian Halls on Glasgow’s Union Street.

Derek Souter, the Dundonian developer who has developed a passion for Glasgow, has spent £5.5m on buying out tenancies in the building to assume full ownership. Now the developer has appointed structural engineers John Addison and architects the Morrison Partnership to prepare designs for the restoration and conversion of the building to a hotel.

Despite these tentative signs of progress however Souter has accused the Scottish Government of “shooting itself in both feet” after Historic Scotland offered just £1.5m to fund external stone repairs, allocating nothing toward repair of the cast iron structure.  

This discrepancy led Private Eye to describe the heritage quango as “disinclined to engage seriously” with the plans. An opinion bolstered when Fiona Hyslop questioned whether Souter was the right person “to be delivering this project” and described the proposed refurbishment as “unviable”.

It has also prompted Union Street Investments to rescind a £4m cross subsidy it was at one time offering to Union Street Properties, Souter is lead director of both companies, to absorb listed building repair notice costs.

With a shortfall remaining of £1.35m in the £18m project and the imminent expiry of a £1m Glasgow City Council grant and the Business Premises Renovation Allowance, it is feared the scheme could be thrown into real jeopardy, potentially prompting the hotel operator signed up for the scheme to pull out.

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