Old Royal High music school backers vow to press on

An artist's impression of the St Mary's Music School plans for the old Royal High. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the St Mary's Music School plans for the old Royal High. Picture: contributed
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BACKERS of a bid to turn the old Royal High School into a new concert venue and music school have vowed to press ahead with their plans – despite an appeal being lodged against the rejection of plans for a luxury hotel on the site.

The trust pursuing the relocation of St Mary’s Music School to the landmark building on Calton Hill has insisted it will not be deterred by an 11th-hour plea to the Scottish Government to save the hotel scheme earmarked for the A-listed former school.

The Royal High School Preservation Trust, which has been pursuing a rival plan for the last year, said it would be “very surprised” if the developers behind the £75 million Rosewood Hotel are successful in appealing.

Their scheme, which would see six-storey extensions built next to the existing landmark, was thrown out by the city council in December after its officials warned it would cause “permanent and irreversible damage” to the world heritage site.

The project is at the centre of a probe into Edinburgh’s world heritage status after international advisers warned Unesco of a “significant threat” from new developments in the historic heart of the Capital.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites has recommended that the Royal High hotel, which attracted more than 2000 objections, “should not be approved”.

William Gray Muir, chair of the St Mary’s trust, said: “Given that the planning application for the hotel was refused on the basis of 11 separate breaches of planning policy, we would be very surprised if the appeal was successful. It certainly does not deter us from our course.

“We continue to develop detailed plans for the school and new concert space in consultation with the trustees of St Mary’s Music School, heritage groups, planners and the local community stakeholders and expect that our proposals will be considered by the planning committee in May.

“Every step of the way, we have received encouragement and support. The importance of the former Royal High School and its future is increasingly recognised at a local and national level.

“It is a beacon of Scotland’s Enlightenment and our plans will bring this magnificent historic building back into public use in a way that fully respects the integrity of the original Thomas Hamilton design.”

Meanwhile, violinist Nicola Benedetti staged an impromptu workshop with a group of St Mary’s students who attended her concert at the Usher Hall at the weekend.

brian.ferguson@jpress.co.uk