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New £10 million plan for Panmure House

Bill's View: 

Might an end be in sight at last to the lengthy protocols and processes for work to start on this glorious restoration?

It is a horrific delay but perhaps not that unusual for the City of Edinburgh whose planning procedures are notoriously slow.

Little did the leading lights of the Edinburgh Business School imagine that their project to restore the house where Adam Smith lived could become so bogged down in such bureaucratic treacle.  It is a scandal that this project has taken so long. But it is a far greater scandal that the city of Edinburgh has allowed the house where modern economics was fashioned to be abandoned and left to rot.

The saga speaks to years of wasted opportunity. For there is no doubt that the bold plans to restore Panmure House will be a major international attraction for students of economics and political economy round the world.

However, the delay may now have worked to produce a redevelopment altogether more ambitious and imaginative in scope.

Here is a plan for which not just the Edinburgh Business School but the city of Edinburgh can be proud.

So we should pay tribute today  to all those who have been working to bring  this dream alive – Professor Keith Lumsden; Professor Sir Alan Peacock, Honorary President of the International Institute of Public finance; Professor Gavin Kennedy, Adam Smith scholar and biographer; Dr. Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute; Professor Orley Ashenfelter, chairman of the Panmure House Advisory Board, and alongside these others too numerous to mention who deserve recognition and applause for their dedication and determination to bring this project to fruition. The realisation of their dream surely cannot come soon enough.

Radical new plans for the redevelopment of Panmure House, Adam Smith’s home in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, into a £10 million global economic study centre have been submitted to the city council this week, Scot-Buzz can exclusively reveal.

The revised plans see major changes to the original submission. The proposed glass atrium is being scrapped and instead the redevelopment will involve scooping out a large sub-basement area to create a meeting hall capable of holding 100 people.

The entrance area and new basement hall will be covered by a walled garden and outdoor walkway.

The restoration and redevelopment of the building where Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations is backed by 21 Nobel Laureates around the world. It has already secured pledges of financial support totalling £1.5 million. And the Edinburgh Business School is confident of securing a full £10 million of funding, both for the building and to finance study programmes to secure its future as an intellectual hub at the centre of the capital.

This will make the restoration of Panmure House, currently in a ruinous state after being in council ownership, to one of the most prestigious academic centres in Scotland.

Said Professor Keith Lumsden, Founder and Academic Director of the Edinburgh Business School, “Edinburgh Business School is fully committed to making Panmure House a place where the fundamental principles that underpin the world’s most pressing problems can be debated and discussed just as they were in Smith’s day”.

Panmure House is situated just off the Canongate in the Royal Mile. It was acquired by the Business School for some £850,000 in 2008. But restoration has been held up by lengthy planning protocols and delays after objections from Historic Scotland.

The glass atrium proposal was finally approved by the council last year but the heritage body has now fallen in behind the new plans.

If the new proposals are approved by the city council the restoration could be complete and the new Panmure House, with panelled rooms, library and state of the art video and conferencing equipment, open by September 2015 – a full seven years after EBS first planned bringing the building back to life.

Smith occupied Panmure House in Edinburgh from 1778 till his death in 1790. He is buried nearby in Canongate Kirkyard.

It is almost four years since the Edinburgh Business School bought the building with a burning £3 million-plus ambition to bring its history alive, establish a fitting and purposeful tribute to Scotland’s greatest economist and make Panmure House a Mecca for academics and historians the world over.

Initial completion date was 2011. But today Panmure House stands as it did when abandoned years ago – empty, derelict and with little evidence of progress on the new owner’s ambitions.