Fresh Royal High School hotel plans fail to sway rivals

Revised proposals for the hotel plans for Royal high School as of Novermber 16
the red outline showns where the terraces came to on the old plans. Picture: contributed
Revised proposals for the hotel plans for Royal high School as of Novermber 16 the red outline showns where the terraces came to on the old plans. Picture: contributed
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A REVISED planning application to turn Edinburgh’s historic old Royal High School into a luxury hotel is unlikely to give planners who rejected the proposal any reason to change their minds, the leader of a rival scheme has claimed.

Councillors narrowly voted to refuse planning permission in 2015 for a 147-bedroom hotel at the Calton Hill site, including two huge “Inca-style” stepped six-storey extensions built on either side of the landmark

It doesn’t appear to answer any of the substantive points raised

WILLIAM GRAY MUIR

A-listed former school.

Last November, the developers behind the £75 million plan, Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group, unveiled revised proposals, scaling back the extensions and reducing the number of rooms.

Now they have formally submitted a revised planning application to the council, though details have not been made public.

A rival proposal for the old Royal High to become a new home for St Mary’s Music School, including a public concert venue, has already been given planning permission – but it cannot progress because of an agreement between the city council and the hotel developers, which is understood to keep open the promise of a lease until 2022.

William Gray Muir, of the Royal High School Preservation Trust, which is promoting the £45m St Mary’s scheme, said the revised hotel proposals published for consultation in November did not meet to concerns of critics.

He said: “We don’t know what is proposed in the latest application, but if it merely follows the outline proposed in the consultation material it doesn’t appear to answer any of the substantive points raised by Historic Environment Scotland, the council planners or any of the other amenity bodies consulted.

“If nothing substantive has changed, there is no reason why the decision of the planning authority should be any different from last time.

“The hotel scheme was originally conceived as a means of providing a sustainable future for a building that did not appear to have one. With the trust’s proposal, we now have a unanimously-approved scheme which is full funded and has none of the disadvantages of the hotel scheme.”

In December 2015, councillors voted by eight to seven to refuse the original plan after officials warned it would cause “permanent and irreversible damage” to the Capital’s World Heritage site.

Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group, which have lined up luxury chain Rosewood to operate the hotel, had argued that Edinburgh has a shortage of top quality hotel rooms and claimed their proposal would create hundreds of jobs and inject £27m into the economy every year.

Launching the revised plans in November, Urbanist Group chairman David Orr said significant modifications had been made to the scale of the project following design workshops with planning officials and “careful consideration of heritage aspects and public comment”.

The wings – which were the focus of strong criticism from heritage watchdogs – were smaller and set further back from the road, opening up views blocked off under the original scheme. An appeal against the rejection of the original scheme has now been shelved.

A spokesperson for Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Group said: “A revised planning application has been submitted and is being processed by the city council following extensive consultation and review of all aspects of the hotel design.

“The development team continues to work closely with interested parties and stakeholders to deliver this important project for Edinburgh and Scotland.”

Designed by Thomas Hamilton in 1826, the neoclassical old Royal High School – often considered one of the best buildings of its type anywhere in the world and once earmarked to house the Scottish Parliament – has lain largely unused for almost 50 years after the former boys’ school moved to Barnton.

A council spokeswoman, said: “Applications for planning permission and listed building consent have been received from Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels for development at the Old Royal High School. They are still to be checked and validated before being posted on our online public access system.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com

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