A contentious plan to demolish almost a third of an A-listed Sir Basil Spence landmark in the Scottish capital is set to be approved.

The plans for the iconic former Scottish Widows headquarters opposite the Commonwealth Pool in the city’s southside involve demolishing five of the 12 buildings that make up the modular structure.

The proposals have been amended to include 174 homes, reduced from almost 200, and the height on some of the buildings has been reduced in the updated plans submitted by Morgan Architects for the developer.

Described by heritage chiefs as possibly the largest open-plan office in Scotland, it was designed in 1970-71 by the architectural practice of Sir Basil Spence, Glover & Ferguson.

The building now lies empty after its previous tenant, Lloyds Banking Group left in 2020.

Schroders Capital Management, the fund manager responsible for the building, earlier appointed a design team led by Edinburgh-based development management practice Corran Properties Limited “with the aim to resolve the building’s issues”.

Neighbours have objected to the plans on grounds including its size and the loss of mature trees, while Historic Environment Scotland said the current proposals are a better option than complete demolition which could potentially be another outcome.

HeraldScotland: How one of the blocks might lookHow one of the blocks might look (Image: Morgan Architects)

Southside Community Council said: “We appreciate the problems with the buildings as they currently are, and have no objection to the principle of redeveloping the site, and no notable objections were made to the suggested modification of the office building and the existing car park.

“There are concerns about the way the buildings will fit into the character of the local area, particularly in terms of height. Local services may not have capacity to accommodate the number of new residents. The removal of a large number of trees, most of which are in a satisfactory condition and add to the amenity and landscape of the site.”

Historic Environment Scotland said: “Although we commend the design development and commitment to low carbon principles, the proposals are radical, and we consider they would be harmful to both the listed building and its setting.

“Having said this, after due consideration of the exceptional difficulties in ensuring the long-term future and reuse of a listed building of this scale and distinctiveness, and looking at the economic viability, on balance, we are not reasonably convinced that a less harmful viable scheme for the listed building and its setting is likely to exist.

“We think it possible that if these proposals were to fail and the building were to come onto the open market we may see a more harmful scheme for the building and its setting, or even proposals to demolish it completely. With this in mind, we have decided not to object to the current application.”

John Lawson, City of Edinburgh Council archaeology officer, said: “The proposals with seek to remove roughly 30% of the current A-listed structure along with its original car park and internal alterations.

Although the scale of these works is significant and will have significant adverse impacts upon both the fabric and character of this A-listed structure, in archaeological terms, in this instance, it has been concluded that although significant such impacts are not significant to warrant refusal of planning permission.

“However, it is essential that a programme of historic building recording is undertaken during demolition to record elements that are affected.”

The proposals, which also include a café, creche and cycle store, are to be decided at a planning meeting on Wednesday.

Law firm professional Fred Banning dies at 40

A campaigner who rose to prominence during the pandemic for fighting for the terminally ill to be given early access to Covid vaccines has died.

Fred Banning, known in Scottish business circles as a senior communications professional with law firms McGrigors and Pinsent Masons, had been diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2020. He was 40 when he died on May 19.

US group closes deal on historic Ben Sayers course

A Scottish course designed by the legendary Ben Sayers has been sold to a US-based online golf community at "well over" the asking price of £750,000.

Opened in 1907 on the Moray coastline at the mouth of the River Spey, the 18-hole Spey Bay Golf Course has been purchased by Links Golf Club. Described as a collective of "tech-forward" Millennial and Gen Z golfers, the community was established in 2021 under the name Links DAO and is said to have more than 5,400 members from throughout the world, though most are based in the US.