Save the George


George, Bath St. Portobello, Edinburgh (Image: LenGazzard)

Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard has pressed Edinburgh Council planners to take urgent action to ensure that the George Cinema in Portobello, a C-listed building last used up till 2016 as a bingo hall, is not left to “fall into ruin” by its owners.

Currently, the fenced off building on Bath Street is described as an “eyesore”, with foliage growing out of it and “visible signs of deterioration”. There are alternative proposals that could it transformed back into a community cinema.

Sheppard has written to the city’s chief planning officer to call for the Council to intervene, require the owners to make the building wind and watertight, and to investigate what powers they have to find a longer-term use for the vacant cinema.

Three planning applications have been submitted to fully or partially demolish the listed building and build 20 high-end flats. These have all have been refused by the council’s development management committee, and two appeals to the Scottish Government’s Reporter have likewise been rejected.

All four local councillors for Portobello-Craigmillar ward at the time opposed the plans. The repeated applications have led some locals to speculate that the owners are content to run down the clock and let the listed building deteriorate to such an extent that it must be demolished, clearing the way for a potentially lucrative residential development in the popular seaside suburb.

The 1930s art deco building was designed by prominent interwar architect Thomas Bowhill Gibson, who is also known for the Dominion in Morningside, and a number of other cinemas of the time.

Commenting, Tommy Sheppard MP said:

“It’s frankly scandalous that this listed building is being left rot in the centre of Portobello’s conservation area. Edinburgh doesn’t have much of its art deco heritage left and too much of what remains is in a very poor condition. Elsewhere in my constituency, in the Southside, the Odeon on Clerk Street is a similar position.

“The result here is an eyesore on Bath Street, the main route to Portobello beach, with temporary fencing encroaching right up to the footway, vegetation growing through, and bits of fallen render lying around.

“The planning committee has repeatedly sent the same message to the developers: your plans are wrong and this important building should be saved, not torn down to make way for flats.

“There are visible signs of deterioration, and the building could pass the point of no return unless the Council intervenes urgently. That’s what I’m calling on them to do. There’s still hope for the George to be restored and to become a popular local cinema and arts centre.”

Local SNP councillor, Kate Campbell, added:

“Three times we’ve fought against the George being demolished, and we’ve won every time. And yet the building is being left in such a bad condition that it feels like it is being left to rot. It’s totally unacceptable and the owners have a duty to keep this precious building standing – they must do so now.”

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