THE owner of a huge shopping centre, branded one of the ugliest buildings in Scotland, has claimed the latest blueprint for its rejuvenation is just weeks away.

TIAA Henderson Real Estate - formerly Henderson Global Investors, which owns the St James Centre in Edinburgh, insists an £850 million plan is still in place to bulldoze the centre and rebuild it.

The London-based developer had to move to confirm the unloved structure has not dodged its twice-delayed demolition date once again after the firm applied for a three-year extension on a building permit start-date.

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The firm, which bought the building in 2006 for £184m, confirmed it had applied for the extension for the revamp permit, but said it will not mean another postponement of the demolition of the 1960s-designed stained-grey concrete tower.

Planning permission was secured for the ambitious reinvention of the project in 2009. It aimed to build in 2011 and finish the overhaul of the complex in four years.

Part of the concrete precinct that never lived up to social and ideological expectations - although it has largely thrived as a retail hub - is called New St Andrews House and was the old home to the Scotland Office.

The first blueprint has been hailed as a prime example of how to revitalise a busy yet still under-used section of a heritage city, but the economic downturn forced a delay, and, already a year behind schedule, in 2012 the start of the work was put back a further three years.

The company said despite the new permit now allowing building to start as late as 2017, work is still timetabled for next year, although no date was given.

The application for an extension has now been lodged with planners.

Edinburgh City Council said yesterday the project was already long overdue and talks are still taking place over the plans.

The John Lewis building would remain but would be enveloped by the new St James Quarter, with more than the 70 or so shops it currently has, flats, offices, cafes, a public square and at least one luxury hotel planned next to the Playhouse Theatre.