Wonderful news before Christmas, the Scottish Government has rejected an appeal for plans to build a student housing development adjoining Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s world-renowned Glasgow School of Art (GSA) building.
Plans by developers Urban Pulse would have seen the former Jumpin’ Jaks nightclub on Sauchiehall Street demolished to make way for a seven-storey block consisting of 181 flats complete with roof gardens, study rooms, common areas and a cinema room.
Opponents said that the block would have restricted daylight to the A-listed GSA building and obscured much of its striking south facade. Fears were also expressed that the proposed building would damage the city’s reputation as a tourist destination and could harm any future UNESCO World Heritage bid, despite Historic Environment Scotland not lodging a formal objection.
The proposals were recommended for approval by planning officials back in March after revised plans submitted by Haus Architects reduced the development by one storey and four flats.
Glasgow City Council’s planning application committee then voted to allow for a hearing to give a chance for those for and against the plans to make their case, before deciding against the development in April.
Urban Pulse then appealed to the government to reverse the decision.
However, delivering his judgement on the appeal this week, reporter Robert Seaton, said: “As a consequence of the proposed development’s adverse effect upon the setting and special character of the Mackintosh building of the Glasgow School of Art and its adverse effect upon the conservation area and setting of other neighbouring listed buildings, I find that the proposed development does not respect, preserve or enhance the historic environment.”
He concluded: “I find that the proposed development does not accord overall with the development plan.
“I have found no material considerations that would still justify granting planning permission. I have considered all the other matters raised, but there are none that would lead me to alter my conclusions.”
The developers had previously said their proposals were in line with aspirations to rejuvenate Sauchiehall Street “and re-establish this important city district”.
A spokesperson for the developers said: “We are of course very disappointed with the decision made by the reporter.
“We had very high hopes of delivering a state of the art building on this tired and dilapidated site that would have replaced the eyesore that presently exists and have helped stem the ongoing decline in this part of Sauchiehall Street.
“What is particularly disheartening is that the decision by the Reporter followed an extensive and indeed unprecedented consultation period, which included extensive discussions with the Glasgow School of Art, and concluded in an enthusiastic recommendation for approval by the professional planning team at Glasgow City Council.
“We now believe that as a direct result of the Reporter’s decision yet another key tenant is now vacating Sauchiehall Street in the New Year leading to the further degradation of this property and adding to the on-going decline of this great street in the centre of Glasgow.
“We have sought to engage with the City Planners early in the New Year to explore a possible way forward for the future of this site if indeed this is at all feasible.”
Mr Seaton’s judgement concludes: “The proposed development would undoubtedly have some economic benefits, and as student accommodation proposed on a city-centre site close to a number of campuses would make efficient use of existing infrastructure.
“However, I am not persuaded these positive aspects would outweigh its detrimental effects on the historic environment.
“As a consequence of these effects it does not show all the qualities of a successful place.”
The reporter’s decision is deemed to be final.
However, individuals unhappy with the decision made by the reporter may have the right to appeal to the Court of Session, but this can only be made on a point of law.
A spokeswoman for the GSA said: “The Glasgow School of Art welcomes the Reporter’s decision to refuse the Appeal for the proposed development at 294 Sauchiehall Street and specifically the recognition that while economic benefits of development are important these should not outweigh the detrimental effects of proposals on the historic environment.”