‘Overwhelming’ support for Royal High hotel plans

An artist's impression of the interior of the debating chamber transformed into the hotel lobby. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the interior of the debating chamber transformed into the hotel lobby. Picture: contributed
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Developers hoping to turn the Old Royal High School on Calton Hill into a luxury hotel say they have received strong support from the public after opening the doors to the long-unused building.

Residents were able to look inside the magnificent Greek revival structure that dominates the Edinburgh skyline for the first time in years during a pair of open days earlier this month designed to win backing for developers’ plans.

Now project proposers Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group have released preliminary results of their own consultation exercise, including surveys filled out by attendees at the open days, showing 79 per cent per cent of respondents back plans to refurbish the building.

However, critics of the plans claim the survey is biased in favour of the scheme, and challenged claims made by developers at the exhibition. The plans will see two modern wings added on either side of the 19th century former school, with the central hall – which was earmarked as the site for a new Scottish Parliament in 1979 – turned into a lobby with a grand staircase cut into the cellar and picture windows looking out over south Edinburgh.

Developers say 75 per cent of more than 200 people who filled in the surveys were supportive of turning the building into a hotel, while 80 per cent backed plans for improvements to Regent Road. An online poll is still running.

David Orr, chairman of the Urbanist Group, said developers were pleased with the turnout.

He said: “It was good to see so many people taking the time to look at our initial proposals. We are delighted that an overwhelming majority of people support the proposals.”

David Ingram, a former Royal High School pupil, was one of those backing plans to restore the building.

He said: “Something has to happen to this building. I personally love the proposals for the gallery reception in the old assembly hall where we had prayers every morning and I am pleased that the original rooms will be restored.”

However, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland’s Euan Leitch questioned whether the hotel plan was in the public interest.

He said: “Like most visitors to the Royal High School the Architectural Heritage Society for Scotland are keen to see the building restored but would question the validity of the survey given the leading questions and incorrect information.

“The Royal High School has been unused for only four years, not 48 as claimed, and was home to a number of cultural and educational organisations until they were put out in 2010.

“Contrary to the survey’s claim that the current annual running costs are £300,000 a Freedom of Information request revealed the council have been spending £70.000 per annum on the building.”

A second exhibition will be held on March 5 and 6.