Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh Royal High School hotel plans rejected

Old Royal High School Image copyright Kim Traynor
Image caption The Old Royal High School was vacated in 1968

Revised plans to convert an Edinburgh landmark into a luxury hotel have been rejected by councillors.

Duddingston House Properties wants to convert the former Royal High School into a five star hotel but its revised plans faced significant objections.

The A-listed building on Calton Hill has lain empty for almost half a century.

Opponents of the scheme insist the designs are unsuitable in a World Heritage Site.

Lewis Ritchie, City of Edinburgh's planning convener, said the plans were "horrible".

The first designs for the 19th century building, which was once a potential home for the Scottish Parliament, were also rejected by city planners.

Image copyright gillian hayes
Image caption An impression of the revised design that was rejected by planners

Council officers had recommended that the revised proposals be refused.

A report said the plan would have a "significant adverse impact" on the site and did not comply with national guidelines on historic buildings.

The proposal included partial demolition of the existing structure, and the building of additional accommodation wings for the hotel.

Developers had said the plan would see the building become a "world class" facility and was the only realistic option for the site.

David Orr, chairman of Urbanist Hotels, said: "We are naturally disappointed although not especially surprised that councillors have taken the decision not to approve our proposals.

"It is especially disappointing and worrying that this decision was made amidst a backdrop of wilful misrepresentation and misleading campaigning by Edinburgh World Heritage and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.

"Despite this concerted and very public campaign against our proposals, we will continue to fulfil our contractual obligation with the council to revive a building which has been allowed to slip into a state of disrepair and neglect for more than 50 years.

"We remain 100% committed to delivering this, or another scheme in line with our agreement with the council, which runs until 2022.

"We will not leave the future of such a magnificent building hanging in the balance, shrouded by uncertainty and vague promises that do not stand up to scrutiny."

Image copyright gillian hayes
Image caption The revised plans proposed two extension wings

William Gray Muir, chairman of the Royal High School Preservation Trust said: "We are very pleased to note the unanimous rejection of this application, embracing Scotland's full political spectrum

"It is difficult to disagree with the committee convenor's description of the proposal as "universally reviled".

"Not one of the many civic representatives who spoke today had received a single comment in favour of this scheme.

Dr Kenneth Taylor, head teacher at St Mary's Music School, said the decision had boosted the chances of it being able to develop the site.

"The school has always been conscious that the Royal High School Preservation Trust's proposal to move St Mary's Music School to the former Royal High School building would succeed only if the local authority opted to reject planning approval for an alternative commercial proposal for the site," he said.

"We are delighted that councillors have taken that decision today."

Claire Miller, Green councillor for Edinburgh city centre, said: "I'm delighted that the planning committee listened to the overwhelming evidence from our own officers, external experts and public opinion and rejected the proposal.

"Perhaps, if the developer's vision for the site had highlighted and showcased the wonderful architecture, preserved the heritage, and brought benefits to the neighbourhood then residents might have been supportive.

"However I don't think these proposals are for a boutique hotel any more. If you need to build extensions to create over 100 bedrooms, then the buildings on the site just aren't suitable for the hotel you're trying to create."

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