THERE is hope a breakthrough is close on a plan for the former Watt Brothers building in Glasgow which is owned by billionaire Greenock businessmen brothers Sandy and James Easdale.

After the retail firm went out of business in 2019, closing the store in the historic city centre location on Sauchiehall Street, the iconic former department store was bought by the McGill's Buses tycoons.

Plans submitted by them for a 125-bed hotel, however, were rejected by Glasgow City Council in September 2022.

Now, after fresh talks with a hotel firm and council officials, it appears there is genuine hope that a deal can be agreed.

Sandy Easdale said: “I've had a bit of interest in it. The whole council attitude at the time just blocked us out of the park.

“Since then, we’ve had reasonable dialogue with them because I think they want something to happen.

“We had a very good meeting with the planning department. I have now put them in touch with a hotelier.

“It is a big franchising brand and they are now looking at it again as of last Friday because they've had interaction with the council.”

The businessman said that he and his brother have been encouraged by the dialogue with the council and feel planning officials also want movement on the site.

The previous plans were rejected in part due to 'unsympathetic additions to the listed building' and concerns over 'decorative ceiling cornicing and wall panelling'.

Greenock Telegraph:

Mr Easdale said he was surprised by that given the number of other developments in the city centre with a similar design where the height is elevated with an atrium.

He noted the development of the old GPO building in George Square right beside the City Chambers, adding: “They put four floors on, I looked it up. But this was one of the objections [for Watt Brothers].”

On the panelling, Mr Easdale said: “It's not like the whole room is wooden panelling and it was done by [Charles Rennie] Mackintosh.”

The businessman said there is a huge cost of having the building just sitting there mostly unused.

He added: “We’ve already spent about 140 grand on that plan. There's a cost to us not doing anything.

“We have to pay for the upkeep of the building which is costly enough, insurance, security, all the stuff that goes, with it.

“We're probably, on average ... 100 grand a year to 150 grand a year, just to have it sitting there.”

After more than a year of no movement, the Easdales hope they can make progress again.

There are no details yet of what the plans may look like.

Mr Easdale said: “We’ve now had a long conversation with the hotelier.

“I've done most of the leg work.”

The council confirmed “planning officers had positive and constructive discussions with the potential developers of the site”.