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Old Angus Hotel vs new Overgate – Dundee’s battle of the buildings

The Angus Hotel amid demolition.

A battle royale ensued when plans were drawn up to bulldoze Dundee’s Angus Hotel to make way for the Overgate redevelopment.

Its defiant owners were sticking to their guns and refusing to budge – or, more accurately, allow their hotel to be knocked down in the name of progress.

What followed was a two-year battle with Overgate developers TBI who wanted to consign the Angus and its star-studded history to the nearest skip.

Otherwise the original plans would have to be ripped up and heavily revised.

A game of cat and mouse ensued but eventually a deal was struck and we have opened up our archives to chart the final check-out for the iconic hotel in 1998.

The Overgate is cleared in preparation of its new shopping mall. 1957.
The Overgate is cleared in preparation of its new shopping mall. 1957.

Before it was a shopping centre, the Overgate was simply a street.

From the corner of Reform Street to St Mary’s Parish Church, its run-down buildings were described as the city’s slums.

Plans to redevelop the area were submitted in 1937, however the beginning of the Second World War saw the proposal abandoned.

Construction on the shopping mall eventually commenced in 1963.

Originally on two levels, the concrete mall was the first town centre development of its kind in Scotland.

The Overgate Centre’s owners, TBI, submitted their proposal for the new, redeveloped shopping centre in 1996.

Their plans included demolishing the Angus Hotel and replacing it with a three-storey department store.

Owners of the Angus Hotel, Mount Charlotte Thistle Hotels, immediately challenged the proposal.

The Angus Hotel (in background) was a defining feature of the city. 1967.

Robert Peel, the chief executive of Mount Charlotte Thistle Hotels, said: “Thistle Hotels have a lease on the Angus Hotel with over 65 years left to run.

“It is a popular and successful venue and forms an important part of our chain of Thistle Hotels throughout Scotland.

“We have had no discussions about its demolition with TBI.”

The Angus Hotel
Owners of The Angus were determined for it to stay. 1964.

TBI’s Scottish operations director David Clement conceded that if any of the current occupants rejected the company’s proposals, plans for the redevelopment would go back to the drawing board.

Despite the plans winning outline consent from the city council, for it to go ahead it would require vacant possession when TBI wanted to redevelop respective sections.

Just one leaseholder staying put in the shopping centre could scupper their plans.

All or nothing

Geoffrey Springer from TBI said that holding up the development was not in the city’s best interests.

He said: “We will be making leaseholders a fair offer, but our margins are so slim.

“There’s no pot of gold waiting if someone wants to hold out.”

The Overgate redevelopment was not without its challenges. 1969.

Mr Springer added that the redevelopment could create as many as 1,000 new jobs.

The predicted influx of shoppers to Dundee would also see other businesses benefiting from the development.

Architects for the development, Keppies Design, intended to have the finalised plans completed by the autumn.

Tourism hub

The city’s tourist sector was especially concerned about the demolition of the Angus.

When it wasn’t housing the A-list stars performing at the Caird Hall, the Angus Hotel was also a popular tourist destination and housed the renowned Glamis Lounge bar.

It was also used as a conference venue.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Dundee saw growing success in securing conference business and was attracting events worth an estimated £20 million annually to the city.

To lose a venue such as the Angus meant a potential loss of this revenue, which Dundee may not have been able to generate elsewhere.

The Angus Hotel in Dundee
The Angus Hotel held on to the bitter end.

Tensions increased in 1996 when the Angus Hotel started to redecorate.

Despite ongoing negotiations between them and TBI, the Dundee venue’s fresh coat of paint was a statement the whole city could see.

The Angus was hanging on.

Demolition begins. 1998.

Negotiations continued throughout 1996.

After much back and forth and an undisclosed sum, a deal was eventually reached behind the scenes.

The Angus Hotel would be toppled.

The demolition crew wasted no time in getting things under way. 1998.

The doors shut for business on July 27, just two months after the agreement had been signed.

While employees had heard the rumours that business would cease, they were left stunned by the speed of the closure.

It would be difficult to find new jobs in Dundee for those who did not remain with Thistle Hotels.

Despite the growing demand in Dundee for hotel accommodation as it became a major conference city, nothing could fill the void the Angus had left.

The city hoped the Angus would be replaced by other similar venue. 1998.

At the time, Dundee City Council’s economic development convener Colin Rennie said that there was potential for Dundee to make something better of losing the Angus.

He said: “The Angus has always had a problem with parking because of its location.

“On that basis alone, it would be better to have another hotel on a different site.

“There are any number of potential sites in and around the town centre and beyond for a hotel.”

The cleared site. 1998.

He stressed that the loss of the Angus would not be imminent.

The Overgate redevelopment was planned in two stages and the part affecting the Angus was intended to be in the longer-term.

Dundee City Council unanimously approved the proposals in December 1996.

Overgate House was also demolished. 1998.

Alongside the demolition of the Angus Hotel, Overgate House and the entire West End were also to be cleared for the redevelopment.

A seven-storey car park would be built on the site of the former DC Thomson print works.

The east end of the centre was to be refurbished and enclosed, and would include a brand-new supermarket.

Desperate Dan assists in the demolition. 1998.
Desperate Dan assists in the demolition. 1998.

A 70-tonne, German demolition machine was responsible for toppling the building.

Complete demolition was estimated to take between six to eight weeks, however, with the help of Desperate Dan it progressed quicker than expected.

Dan had been recruited by developers Lend Lease to get the demolition off to a crashing start.

Lord Provost Mervyn Rolfe was also present to give the superhero a hand.

A successful day’s work. 1998.

The demolition of the Angus happened piece by piece; the windows were removed first, followed by its other fixtures and fittings.

Power and phone lines were re-routed around the site, and the area was soon closed to pedestrians.

But they could still see the damage occurring.

The Big Yin’s favourite

The demolition was dubbed a “criminal act” by some Dundonians.

In the centre of the city, the Angus was fondly remembered as a home away from home for the stars of the Caird Hall.

Billy Connolly, David Bowie, and others all spent time within its hallowed halls when they took to the Dundee stage.

It may not have had decent parking, but its close proximity to the venue meant stars could make the journey back to their rooms reasonably unscathed!

Sir Jimmy Shand and Billy Connolly attended a fundraising concert at the Angus Hotel in 1980.
Sir Jimmy Shand and Billy Connolly attended a fundraising concert at the Angus Hotel in 1980.

A year later, the Thistle Hotel group announced proposals for a new hotel at Dundee harbour.

The new hotel would be part of a £30 million redevelopment by Forth Ports and would replace the Angus Hotel.

The new, 140-room development would cost between £8.5 million and £10 million.

In addition to being more than double the size of the Angus, it would also have 500- seat conference facilities.

However, the end of the Angus was the end of Thistle Hotels presence in Dundee.

Thistle Hotel’s new property was supposed to appear at the Dundee docks. Forth Ports. 2017.

The withdrawal of Thistle Hotels from the Forth Ports development was confirmed in 1998 by the Forth Ports property development manager.

Mr Callum Ford said that Thistle Hotels had indicated Dundee “was no longer on their target list”.

Despite the brand-new facilities and features of the intended new development, it could never recreate the glitz and glamour of the original Angus Hotel, still fondly remembered in the city today.

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