Fair City businessmen have given a cautious welcome to Perth and Kinross Council’s bid to lure the Stone of Destiny from Edinburgh Castle to provide the focal point of a “visual arts centre” designed to boost visitor numbers.
But local developers Derek Petterson, Simon Horne and Brian Cavellini remain to be convinced by £20 million plans for reviving the long-empty Perth City Hall and revamping the George Street museum, which will go before councillors next week.
They would rather see the King Edward Street frontage of the B-listed building retained for business use – or showcasing the Stone of Destiny – while still securing the civic square long championed by the council, but blocked by heritage watchdogs.
The trio have commissioned an artist’s impression of how the city centre would look if the council opted for their draft design – and reported favourable feedback from businesses who have viewed the proposals.
“Of course Perth needs to attract more visitors going forward but we also have to think of a business community which has waited more than a decade for something to be done about the City Hall,” said Mr Petterson, Perthshire Glazing chief executive.
“The idea of bringing the Stone of Destiny to Perth is nothing new and the council will have a fight on their hands to get it. But if they are successful and it was to prove a tourist attraction then we would welcome it
“But the plans announced by the council this week for the City Hall and the museum would mean they are giving up on their vision of creating a public square to host all manner of crowd-generating events. That would be regrettable from a business perspective.”
Mr Horne, a director with Fair City Developments, accepts that 11 years after it closed its doors a line has to be drawn under the City Hall saga.
But he maintained the council could have the “best of both worlds” by adopting their suggestion.
Mr Horne stressed: “This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the council’s latest plans. We have been working on this for months now and the costs would be nowhere near the £20 million-plus mooted for the project going before councillors on Wednesday.
“Our vision envisages the council retaining ownership and partially dismantling the hall. The footprint of a building which dates back to 1909 would be retained – while providing the square sought by the council within feature walls. It is a cost-effective, win-win situation.
“Businesses around the City Hall have endured Rateable Values amounting to more than £1 million a year over the past decade and we accept the gridlock has to end.
“We have seen various plans for the City Hall come and go. It has been frustrating for line-of-sight businesses, their customers and everyone with the best interests of Perth at heart.
“But the latest plans promoted by the council mean we lose out on the civic square councillors have been pushing for over many years.
“We are not criticising the local authority. We appreciate their hands have been tied with Historic Environment Scotland and its predecessor Historic Scotland consistently having opposed demolition.
“But our remodelling proposal respects those views as much as possible. And it is much more than a dusting down of the so-called ‘Brandenburg Gate’ concept and offers an alternative way forward for Perth.
“We have been invited by the council for a ‘meaningful discussion’ and look forward to exploring all the possibilities to present to Historic Environment Scotland.”