IN a sign of confidence that its current planning troubles will be overcome, contractors have been appointed to start the building process for Edinburgh’s new £45 million concert hall, which will be the home of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and a major new Festival centre.

It has been announced that Sir Robert McAlpine has secured the pre-construction services contract for the 1000-seat auditorium, Dunard Centre concert hall. It will be built behind Dundas House, the Royal Bank of Scotland’s historic home on St Andrew Square.

The International Music & Performing Arts Charitable Trust Scotland (Impact) appointed David Chipperfield Architects to design the new Dunard Centre and yesterday’s announcement strongly indicates that Sir Robert McAlpine will eventually build the new hall.

The complex will be Edinburgh’s first specifically-designed concert hall in more than 100 years.

The client project team includes consultants Turner and Townsend, civil engineers Whitby Wood and mechanical and electrical systems consultant RSP.

Construction Manager magazine reported that Sir Robert McAlpine was one of two firms to submit a bid in the two-stage tender process winning a pre-construction services agreement and an NEC Option A contract.

The project is receiving £25m through the Edinburgh City Region Deal – made up of £10m from the UK Government, £10m from the Scottish Government, and £5m from the City of Edinburgh Council. All other funding is being met privately, most significantly from the Dunard Fund, which has long supported the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Architect Sir David Chipperfield said: “This will be a public building that relates to Edinburgh on a civic scale by both fitting in and standing out in order to perform an important social and cultural role in a city with strong established cultural traditions.”

In April, Edinburgh councillors approved the plan despite the objections of the company which is developing the adjacent Edinburgh St James project.

Nuveen Real Estate, who are behind the £850m St James Centre redevelopment, are reported to be seeking a judicial review of the planning decision in order to block the scheme. They have objected to the concert hall’s height and mass and also to the materials which would form the exterior of the new hall and allege a breach of planning policies.

They are going against the council’s professional planners who said in their report: “On balance, and taking its proposed use into consideration, it is considered that the proposed development does not remove or detract from key characteristic components of the conservation area that gives the area its special interest.

“It will contribute to the architectural quality of the area with a contemporary high quality building designed to respond to its historic and modern urban environment.

“The proposal’s gentle domed roof, symmetry to the axis of George Street, glazed colonnade and elliptical form of the hall assist in mediating between the scale of the neo-classical Dundas House and the contemporary Edinburgh St James development.

“In this regard, the special character and appearance of the New Town Conservation Area will be preserved and enhanced.”

If granted by a judge in the Court of Session, the judicial review will delay the project by several months and possibly more than a year.

Such a hold-up would be extremely disappointing, according to Impact.

Martin Perry, Director of Development, Edinburgh St James, said, "We fully support the vision for a new concert hall for Edinburgh, however we firmly believe that the Impact development should be designed to truly respect the setting of Dundas House and reflect both the wider masterplan which was agreed in response to 2007 planning policy, and Edinburgh City’s skyline policy.

"As we have demonstrated in our approach at Edinburgh St James, and in line with the recently agreed Edinburgh World Heritage Management Plan, the design must be appropriate in both scale and mass to ensure it fully integrates into the city's landscape.

"With this in mind, we have raised objections to particular elements of the proposal including the height, scale, and mass, as we would hope to see far more attention placed on ensuring a development situated in the heart of this beautiful world heritage city befits its surroundings."