A LANDMARK building designed by feted architect Washington Browne which bears a stone banner engraved with ‘Let There Be Light’ is set to be clouded in shade, according to campaigners.

Protestors are to leaflet users of Edinburgh's Central Library today [Saturday] warning them about plans for a nine-storey hotel on publicly-owned land behind the building which experts have warned will leave the historic building in shadow and end hopes of modernisation.

A planning application for a 225 bedroom hotel on behalf of developers Jansons on the site, which includes the listed India Buildings, is to be discussed by the council next week and the Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust (EOTDT), which has been campaigning against the proposals said the protest today would be a "final surge" to stop what it described as a desperate act of short-term economic gain.

Architect Neil Simpson, of EOTDT said there had been little or no consultation about the plans, which he claimed would permanently "shackle" Edinburgh Central Library.

He said: "The land behind the library is publicly owned and belongs to the people of Edinburgh but the Council is short of cash and has decided to sell it off, along with many others in and around the city centre. Stretching from Victoria Street right back to the Cowgate, the massive hotel building will steal daylight and views currently enjoyed by users of Scotland’s best Andrew Carnegie-endowed library, casting a deep shadow on the well-used main lending library and internationally important Edinburgh and Scottish Collections below."

He said the nine-storey hotel building would be separated from the library by a lane less than five metres wide in places and would undermine the long-term vision for the central library.

Ironically, when celebrated architect George Washington Browne, won a competition in 1887 to design a central library for Edinburgh, the site was been selected because "it could be guaranteed plenty of light and air without the threat of interference from other buildings".

Mr Simpson added: "The principal aim of Washington Browne’s design was to maximise light, achieved by the large windows up the full height of the west wall. You can see and admire these from the inside the library and from below in the Cowgate. For 125 years his building has served the people of Edinburgh, who enter beneath a stone banner engraved 'Let There Be Light'.

"The decision to sell the publicly-owned land, once earmarked for the Library extension ... seriously compromises the long-term vision for the Central Library as a significant cultural destination for the city.

"Our efforts to understand how the City is safe-guarding the magnificent George Washington Browne-designed building have been frustrated. The Council was advised in 2002 that 'It would be a hugely wasted opportunity if the [gap] site was developed for other uses without seriously considering how it could, not just solve the existing problems of the Central Library, but re-invent the Central Library in a form relevant to 21st century needs and aspirations'. The recent decision to dispose of the site therefore makes no sense."

The EOTDT has also opposed the proposal on the basis that the area is oversupplied with tourist accommodation while more is needed for residents of the old town. Sean Bradley, the Trust's chair, said: "The City is missing a unique opportunity to enhance the permanent residential population of the Old Town. The old Social Work department building in Victoria Street, included in this sell-off, could have

been converted into much-needed houses for the Old Town, where affordable houses are being lost to holiday lets and private landlords."

The Cowgate Clinic, which provide a range of NHS services to homeless and vulnerable people has also been given notice to quit the site, he added: "We are extremely worried that decisions being taken by the Council are jeopardising the future of the city for its citizens."

Wendy Hebard from Grassmarket Residents' Association said: "We made our views known once we saw the plans and there have been over 200 objections to the scheme, yet these have been very largely ignored by the developers and the Council officials alike."

A spokeswoman for the City of Edinburgh council said it would not comment on live planning applications.