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The Forum - Planning Application

1. Introduction and Masterplan Context

The purpose of the Planning Report is to provide the Planning Committee with an explanatory statement regarding the proposed development at Potterrow for the University of Edinburgh. The statement begins by explaining the importance of the building to the University and then shows how the proposals have been developed in response to a range of different issues such as urban design and sustainability.

This project is one of the major components of the University’s masterplan framework for George Square / Bristo Square. The framework, prepared by RMJM Associates, was endorsed by the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Committee in June 2004, and the Potterrow Development is a significant step towards its realisation. The new building totals approximately 25,000m2, there are three principal users, the School of Informatics, the College of Humanities and Social Science and University Student Support Services. The accommodation requires to be phased because of funding. The first phase will be the School of Informatics. The second phase will consist of academic accommodation for the College of Humanities and Social Science and University Student Support Services.

The School of Informatics is one of the ‘jewels in the crown’ of the University of Edinburgh and makes a significant economic contribution both to the University and the City. It is the only five star A rated School of computing in the UK and is regarded as the forth most important such department in the world (the other three are in the United States). Presently the School occupies five buildings in different parts of the city and requires to consolidate to improve academic interaction and allow growth. Informatics, the Science of Information, also forms a bridge linking Humanities and Science. The University if therefore keen to locate it in the George Square area.

Further Phases will house academic accommodation for the College of Humanities and Social Science and several University student support services functions. Presently the different components are scattered across a wide variety of buildings including former Georgian town houses within the George Square / Buccleuch Place area. The accommodation is not only inflexible and inefficient but will also encounter significant problems in terms of compliance with legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act. Bringing together the service departments, in particular, offers an opportunity to support both students and the general public by contributing to the creation of a more coherent University precinct linking between George Square and Bristo square and providing a concentration of useful services in one location ideally located adjacent to important central University facilities such as the Teviot Row Union and McEwan Hall.

Whilst essential to the University corporate plan the Potterrow development is also consistent with delivering the objectives identified in the masterplan framework. These include sensitive insertion in the traditional hub of the University and seeking to contribute to the physical regeneration of the southside by repairing the urban gain and creating a more coherent precinct whilst improving the urban realm for the benefit of Town and Gown.


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