Royal High hotel plans would ‘violate’ landmark

Save Britain's Heritage executive president has called for the plans to be rejected
Save Britain's Heritage executive president has called for the plans to be rejected
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ONE of Britain’s leading heritage campaign groups has stepped up the pressure on councillors to reject plans to turn the celebrated former Royal High School into a luxury hotel.

They have been warned that controversial extensions planned for the building on Calton Hill would “violate” the A-listed landmark and “intrude horrifically” on views across the city.

Save Britain’s Heritage (Save) has described two “visually dominant” six-storey wings, proposed for either side of the building, as “overbearing and insensitive.”

It is demanding plans to convert the building for an American hotel giant are “firmly rejected”, despite the authority signing a lease agreement five years ago with one of the two Scottish developers leading the project.

And the campaign group has thrown its weight behind an alternative bid to transform the building – which has been lying largely empty for more than four decades – into a new home for an independent music school.

Critics have warned that approval for the development will put Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site status at risk – 20 years after the designation was approved by Unesco.

Save describes the former Royal High as “a landmark historic building of supreme architectural importance”.

It believes the plans for the luxury hotel will draw focus away from the original 1825 building, designed by Thomas Hamilton, and have “negative consequences” for other listed buildings and monuments on Calton Hill.

The intervention from Save has emerged after a damning objection to the hotel scheme was lodged by government agency Historic Scotland.

Many planning experts believe that move has heightened the prospects of a public inquiry as it opens the door for ministers to call in the hotel scheme if it is approved by the council.

The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, set up in the wake of the Old and New Towns winning the Unesco designation, claims advice it has given on the Royal High School over several years has been ignored.

Marcus Binney, executive president of Save, said: “The latest proposals for the Royal High School must be firmly rejected. Thomas Hamilton’s school is one of the most beautiful Greek Revival buildings in Britain. Thanks to its magnificent setting on Calton Hill, it is a supreme example of the Romantic Movement in architecture.

“The proposed new hotel wings will violate the site and intrude horrifically on many fine views across the city.

“The proposals are the more unacceptable as a sympathetic and appropriate use is available, with full funding to implement it, for the restoration of the building as a school – the use the building was designed for.

A spokesman for developers Duddingston House Properties and The Urbanist Group said they did not want to comment on Save’s submission.