Caltongate plan promises plenty rooms with a view

An artist's impression of the Caltongate development. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the Caltongate development. Picture: contributed
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TWO major hotels are set to be constructed on an Old Town gap site as part of the £150 million Caltongate masterplan.

A deal has been struck to build a 127-room Premier Inn and a 130-room Hub hotel at the New Street wasteland, which has been the subject of significant planning wrangles over the last decade.

South-African developer Artisan has submitted detailed plans for the complex – 
boasting a mix of leisure, retail and office space – including a blueprint for a large civic square within the five-acre development.

The innovative ‘smart’ Hub will be the first hotel of its kind outside London and is billed as a “new breed of city-centre accommodation where smart technology meets stylish design”.

In London, the Hub features an en-suite bathroom, wardrobe, desk, bed, free wifi and a 40-inch smart-screen television, all contained within 11.4 square metres. Lighting and room temperatures can be controlled using a mobile phone app, while guests can also pre-order breakfast and even fix the television channel to be showing their favourite programme when they arrive. Check-in will also be done online, limiting contact between guests and staff. Both hotels, owned by Whitbread PLC, will sit next to each other facing East Market Street and Cranston Street.

Lukas Nakos, Artisan’s managing director, said there had been “huge interest” from hotel operators “around the world” but expressed delight at Whitbread’s investment.

He said: “High-quality hotel provision will be the cornerstone of our development, and it’s great to see how innovative leisure concepts such as the Hub will add vibrancy, excitement and colour to our plans.

“We will be placing strong emphasis on the quality of design and materials to ensure both hotels reflect their historic Royal Mile setting – as well as ensuring that the wider area benefits from the increased visitor spend.”

John Bates, head of UK and Ireland acquisitions at Whitbread, said sealing the deal for two hotels at Caltongate was “outstanding” for Premier Inn. He said: “It gives us more than 257 new bedrooms in central Edinburgh and also our first new Hub by Premier Inn outside London.

“We are now set to have two great Premier Inn products side-by-side in a superb new development in the heart of the Old Town – and close to Waverley Station. It is more exciting growth for us in Scotland and another big result for our customers.”

If given the green light by planners next month, work is expected to begin on the huge Caltongate development by mid-2014.

Two leading heritage watchdogs have previously slammed the plans to redevelop the Old Town. The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland and the Cockburn Association delivered damning verdicts on the Caltongate scheme, accusing developers of treating the historic environment with 
“contempt”.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com