Plans for luxury flats at Donaldson’s School

Developer City & Country hopes work will start at Donaldson's next summer once planning permission is secured. Picture: Rob McDougall
Developer City & Country hopes work will start at Donaldson's next summer once planning permission is secured. Picture: Rob McDougall
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Donaldson’s School is set to be redeveloped as luxury flats and apartments after a deal was struck between owners and an award-winning restoration firm.

Flats in the A-listed 1850 William Playfair-designed building, which has lain empty for six years, could become “the most desirable residential addresses in Scotland, if not the UK”, according to property experts.

Developers have set out a tight schedule for consultation to take place and new planning permission to be secured, with a target of June for planning consent to be secured ahead of an “immediate” start to work.

New plans will be submitted for approval by city officials, with new developers City & Country set to revise existing plans so that the development is more sensitive to the unique Donaldson’s building. Architects have been told to accommodate unique historical features such as the building’s internal staircases and the grand corridor that runs along the entire quadrangle, which would have been lost forever under CALA’s current plans.

City & Country focuses on restoring stately homes and historic properties and has won awards for all its developments, including the restoration of Bentley Priory near London which served as Fighter Command HQ during WWII. In partnership with the Battle of Britain trust, part of the building was retained as an RAF museum.

CALA Homes, which agreed the sale of the Donaldson’s building to City & Country last Friday, will retain grounds to the north of the former school to build modern apartments. The News understands that City & Country executives have launched a major charm offensive in the past week, consulting with heritage chiefs and campaigners in an effort to win round potential opponents.

Helen Moore, Managing Director at City & Country, said: “Our aim is to create a restoration of which the local community, Edinburgh and indeed Scotland can be proud. We do not underestimate the challenges ahead, but we firmly believe that we have the best and most talented team available to deliver a successful outcome.”

CALA’s ownership of the site has been beset by problems, with reports of the firm having insufficient capital to develop the site and repeated attempts to recoup the £22m originally paid by the housebuilder.

Ben Brough of property firm Savills said: “CALA Evans and City & Country now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop this impressive property into one of the most desirable residential addresses in Scotland, if not the UK.”

Donaldson’s College, formerly Donaldson’s Hospital, was named after its benefactor, James Donaldson, who bequeathed his property to build and found a hospital for children.

Originally an orphan hospital, the building became a specialist school for deaf children until 2008, when the school moved to a purpose-built campus in Linlithgow.

David McGrath, Regional Director of CALA Homes (East), said: “We are delighted to have reached agreement with a heritage developer of the calibre of City & Country to jointly develop the site.”