Balmoral seeks room to expand

The Balmoral Hotel
The Balmoral Hotel
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Bosses at Sir Rocco Forte’s Balmoral Hotel have launched investigations into developing down into the basement floors of the iconic A-listed Princes Street building.

The former North British Hotel has four basement levels not open to the public, which overlook Waverley Station.

Work has begun to see if parts of the basement can become extensions to the six existing publicly-accessible floors within the five-star hotel.

Architects have already been brought in to look at how the basement areas could be developed. And discussions are also taking place with the city council about what types of development would be likely to be acceptable for an A-listed building.

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “One of the issues for the Balmoral is that there is an area lower down that they can’t get economic use out of, so they have commissioned an architect to see what can be done.

“Given the heritage interest in the building we want to work closely with them to ensure anything that is done is appropriate to that style of building.”

Two of the four basement levels have been ruled out for development, as they are used as staff areas and also to store utilities equipment.

Among the potential uses for the other two floors are a bar, restaurant, luggage areas, additional leisure space or creating further hotel bedroom space – although only some of the rooms would benefit from access to a window.

When asked what he’d like to see created in the extra space, Cllr Buchanan said: “It is very much down to the commercial decisions of the Sir Rocco Forte Hotel Group. It is a high-class offer and it is about maintaining that. How that happens is down to the hotelier but our issue is, is it appropriate, does it fit in with the world heritage site and does it fit in with the planners?”

If bosses give the green light for development of the two floors to go ahead, it will be one of the biggest expansions in the history of the flagship building at number one Princes Street, which became the Balmoral in 1991 following a £23 million refurbishment of the old North British Station Hotel by Edinburgh-based Balmoral International Hotels.

Sir Rocco Forte bought the hotel in 1997 and it became the first of his Rocco Forte Collection. A £7m refurbishment of all areas of the hotel was carried out in 2004.

A Balmoral spokeswoman said: “We have had initial discussions with Edinburgh City Council regarding the feasibility of bringing the basement floors of the hotel into use.

“These discussions are at a very early stage. However, we are keen to understand what potential uses our basement floors could have for the Balmoral and the city of Edinburgh.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com