The Theatres Trust

Historic Edinburgh Odeon has listing upgraded from B to A

4th April 2012

The former Odeon Cinema on Clerk Street has been upgraded from a category B to a category A-listed building by heritage body Historic Scotland. Said to be the only remaining ‘semi-atmospheric’ cinema in Scotland, the building is now deemed one of around 10,000 examples of “national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type.”

A spokesperson for Historic Scotland said: “Following consultation with the owner and the City of Edinburgh Council about the listing of the former Odeon Cinema on Clerk Street, Edinburgh, we have changed the category of listing from B to A to reflect its interest as a building of national importance.”

Built in the 1930s, the art deco venue, previously called the New Victoria, was bought by developers Duddingston House Properties (DHP) in 2003, and has remained empty since. Despite putting forward a number of proposals for the site, including student accommodation and an entertainment complex, DHP have failed to find a use for the building, which has fallen into a state of decay since it was closed.

In 2007, the group proposed the construction of a hotel, which would involve the demolition of the cinema’s historic auditorium, though had plans refused by council planning chiefs last year after a fervent campaign by local people.

Activists have welcomed Historic Scotland’s decision to upgrade the former Odeon’s listed status, and say they are “delighted”.

Hilary McDowell, the former chair of Southside Community Council and a leading member of the Save Our Cinema campaign, said: “I think there still will be work to do – we’re interested in getting it into use. But at the moment we’re rejoicing in the fact that the building has now got far more recognition than before.”

Gordon Barr of the Scottish Cinemas Project, who first proposed the cinema’s upgrading in 2007, agreed that the change would not significantly affect planning protection for the building, but claimed the move was a step in the right direction. He said: “The listing doesn’t necessarily mean that you couldn’t knock it down but it formally acknowledges interest in the building, which in particular is the auditorium and the interior. We’d really like to see the building back in use; not necessarily as a cinema, and this might mean that if a new owner wants to restore the building more grants might be available because it’s worth making a fuss about. We’re pleased to see this. It doesn’t mean it can’t be changed or demolished but from our perspective it’s a step in the right direction and might act as a catalyst to drive things forward.”

Councillor Jim Lowrie, the council’s planning leader, said: “The council’s Planning Service has been working with the owner of the former Odeon Cinema to deliver a solution for this important listed building which would retain all features of special architectural or historic interest including the auditorium, the inner and outer foyer and the first floor cafe area.

“The upgrading to category A has been discussed for some time but has only recently been made possible so it is welcomed, as it reflects our view that the building is of such importance that any features of special interest should not be removed.”

Read more in STV Local

Read the full Historic Scotland Edinburgh Odeon designation upgrade

Historic Scotland Listing Categories

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