Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Plan to reopen Usher Hall shelved

Usher Hall
Edinburgh's Usher Hall is undergoing a 25m refurbishment

Plans to reopen Edinburgh's Usher Hall amid a 25m refurbishment have been shelved.

Edinburgh City Council said the move would be too expensive and could compromise the official opening of the 95-year-old building, in the summer.

But two of Scotland's orchestras now face having to refund hundreds of disappointed concert goers.

Work was halted last August to allow the Edinburgh International Festival to stage pre-arranged concerts.

But plans to down tools again in April have now been abandoned, forcing the cancellation of three concerts and the move, to another venue, of an international conference.

Edinburgh City Council culture leader Deidre Brock, said: "These bookings were taken in good faith, but the project has experienced unexpected problems which have pushed up costs.

"The sums involved in making the venue available and the potential impact on the project further down the line means that it's just not possible to host these four events.

Needless to say, we are frustrated and disappointed that the re-opening has been put back
Simon Woods
RSNO chief executive

"This is a very difficult situation but our main focus must remain on getting the project completed in the summer and delivering a world class venue that will attract major events to Edinburgh in the future."

One of the events - a two day rotary club conference involving 1,500 delegates - will still be staged at the city's Corn Exchange.

But three concerts by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) have been cancelled completely.

"Needless to say, we are frustrated and disappointed that the re-opening has been put back, and that we are again being forced to change plans for concerts which we believed to be absolutely firm commitments," said RSNO chief executive Simon Woods.

"That said, it's an old and complicated building and we will, of course, be patient as the council attempts to control what is evidently an extremely difficult construction programme."

The RSNO has offered full refunds, as well as cut price tickets to concerts in Glasgow.

The SCO has also offering refunds, or tickets and courtesy coach travel to an alternative concert in Glasgow.

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