Kevin Buckle: Don’t leave us in the dark over Royal High

David Orr 'remains 100 per cent committed' to building a hotel on the Royal High site
David Orr 'remains 100 per cent committed' to building a hotel on the Royal High site
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I really didn’t think I would bother to comment on what I considered to be a foregone conclusion that the hotel development for Old Royal High would be refused and in fact when offered meetings in Glasgow on Thursday accepted them rather than tune in to the council meeting.

As I came out of the last meeting Twitter confirmed what I had expected and I then realised I had no idea what followed next. With so much else on I hadn’t given it much consideration for quite a while but as I thought it through on the train home and tried to recall the origins of the development it was hard to see how the situation would be resolved.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in Game of Thrones. Picture: AP

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in Game of Thrones. Picture: AP

David Orr’s comments that “we remain 100 per cent committed to delivering this, or another scheme in line with our agreement with the council, which runs until 2022” certainly does not bode well.

What I think the Edinburgh public deserves to know is exactly what the situation really is. Does the agreement with the council that David Orr, pictured below, refers to allow developers to build a boutique hotel that would be acceptable or was there a minimum number of rooms agreed? Most objecting bodies claim that they don’t object to a hotel in principle but is any hotel of any size viable? It was the council that asked for a hotel so it does not seem unfair to suggest that these questions should be answered.

If indeed the council and developers quote confidentiality of the contract which they are quite entitled to then the public will be kept in the dark for the foreseeable future and a building that has been empty for so long will remain empty even longer.

Taking a simplistic viewpoint, surely the developers have put so much money in the pot already, to give this a poker analogy, that they will not concede defeat until they have to and if that is indeed 2022 the public deserves to know.

Do we now go back to an inquiry where the Scottish Government might approve an even bigger proposal? I’m not suggesting for one second that the fate of the old Royal High weighs heavy on the thoughts of many of people in Edinburgh on a daily basis but still surely this has gone on long enough.

From the developers’ viewpoint, I can see that by now they may feel that the establishment at least is against them but that doesn’t excuse their lack of engagement with the wider public. Should they be considering a new strategy you would have to hope this included making a far more public and comprehensive argument for their case. It is vital that we are all given a clearer idea of how this situation will now move forward.

Game of Thrones has got nothing on this drama

I DON’T binge watch programmes like Game of Thrones so when I decided to watch a little of the council meeting discussing the proposed luxury hotel on the old Royal High site last night I was surprised that five hours later I had stuck with it all the way through.

Discussing a setting that the Game of Thrones location people would kill for, the meeting contained more claims of intrigue and back-stabbing than any TV episode. What would confuse many is that the previous application had narrowly lost 8-7 while the revised plans described by the planning convener as “an improvement on what came before, but only a very slight improvement” was refused unanimously by the same planning committee made up, of course, of different people.

In summarising, the councillors themselves could not seem to agree on what might be acceptable, with views ranging from no hotel of any size being appropriate to it simply being a case of size and construction materials.

Given the proposed hotel operator Rosewood is known for their support of the arts and how they treat their employees and the local community and not for how their hotels look externally I’m surprised the developers don’t just give the council planners a blank piece of paper and let them suggest an acceptable design and then fit the Rosewood ethos within that shell.

Steps must be taken to relieve this bottleneck

I was over in Glasgow to discuss the Scottish Pop Exhibition Centre and more exhibits and in sharp contrast to Edinburgh, which is noticeably quiet post-Festival, Glasgow city centre was buzzing. It was a sunny day which certainly helped but it is no exaggeration to say it felt and looked as busy as Edinburgh during the Festival, minus the flyers.

With claims that it is only a matter of time before Edinburgh becomes a bigger city than Glasgow you really have to wonder what is going on. It is understandable that locals keep a low profile during the Festival but then they don’t appear to emerge from their bunkers afterwards.

Though busy, it was a pleasant walk around Glasgow city centre and the opposite of what I had experienced the previous Saturday in Edinburgh.

I know several of the stallholders on the steps from The Mound to Princes Street and thought I would pay them a visit. The High street was bad enough but The Mound and steps were unbearable and very like what happens at Christmas with the market in the gardens.

The traders themselves confirmed that business was actually far better earlier in the week, when it was at least a little quieter. A couple of them had actually not set up their stalls, so poor did they expect the day to be. You could clearly see nobody was enjoying their walk down the steps even though the situation is actually alleviated slightly by the fact the footfall is mostly one way.

If ever there was an argument for spreading out events in the Festival over a longer period and over a wider area it was that bottleneck on the steps and it is by no means the only example of why the situation needs to be addressed in time for next year.