Plans approved for former Scottish Widows headquarters

Friday May 26th 2023

Scottish Widows Headquarters

Design Plans. Image: Morgan Architects.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

One of Edinburgh’s most iconic buildings will be partially demolished to undergo a major renovation after sitting empty for three years.

The former Scottish Widows headquarters by Holyrood Park is to shrink in size by about a third, losing five of its distinctive hexagonal modules. The remaining seven will form a new ‘business hub’, café and crèche.

Five residential blocks will also be built on site including 57 affordable flats.

The plans were given the go-ahead by councillors this week despite a range of objections relating to the height of the new apartments, loss of trees, lack of affordable homes for families – and fears the part-demolition of the Sir Basil Spence-designed landmark would lead to its A-listed status being revoked.

The planning sub-committee were widely supportive of the application as it came before them on Wednesday. Members welcomed efforts made to retain some of the structure whilst delivering much-needed housing near to the city centre.

One local councillor who praised developers’ “valiant effort” said redevelopment of the site “could well have been student housing”.

Originally constructed in the 1970s, the current building is said to be home to the largest open plan office in Scotland with a total floor area of 26,800 square meters. But it has been completely empty since previous tenants, Lloyds Banking Group, vacated in 2020 and the redevelopment plans were lodged last year.

Planners said at the meeting that the “essential appearance of the office” will not change from the view of the main entrance on Dalkeith Road as the five modules being demolished are at the rear of the site.

However, they added the building’s glass façade will be replaced as it contains “significant amounts of asbestos”.

Meanwhile, three of the five apartment buildings will be six-sided to match the design of the existing structure with the remaining two L-shaped. Altogether they will contain 174 flats.

It was also highlighted that 47 out of 71 trees on the site would need to be cut down to make way for the residential blocks, but would be replaced with 81 new plantings.

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