Plans to turn Royal High into music school backed by planners

Artist impression if plans to use the Royal High School as music school go ahead. Picture; Richard Murphy Architects

Artist impression if plans to use the Royal High School as music school go ahead. Picture; Richard Murphy Architects

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PLANS to turn the historic old Royal High School into a new home for Scotland’s only independent music school have been recommended for approval.

Officials said bringing the A-listed former Royal High School in Edinburgh back into “long-term, sustainable future use” would be a “significant conservation gain” – praising the sensitive approach by architects.

Artist's impression of the proposed Rosewood Hotel on the site of the former Royal High School, in Edinburgh. Picture; contributed

Artist's impression of the proposed Rosewood Hotel on the site of the former Royal High School, in Edinburgh. Picture; contributed

The move will come as a blow to developers behind a rival scheme to turn the neoclassical structure on Calton Hill into a £75 million luxury hotel.

Their bid was thrown out by councillors in December last year, but they have appealed the decision to the Scottish Government and a hearing is ongoing.

The latest application, set to go before councillors next week, has been submitted by the Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT) and hopes to transform the site into a concert venue and base for St Mary’s Music School.

Council officials’ backing for the proposals could further complicate the debate around one of Edinburgh’s most iconic buildings.

However, it is understood the contract between the council and Duddingston House Properties, the developer behind the hotel plans, would not be affected if councillors gave the music school plans the go-ahead.

This means the RHSPT could be unable to act on their blueprints until 2022, when the council’s contract with Duddingston ends – even if the hotel developer’s current plans fall on appeal.

Duddingston entered into a contract with the council five years ago after they won an open competition to develop the site.

The Thomas Hamilton-designed old Royal High School was built in the early 19th century.

In their report, council officials dubbed it “the finest example of Greek Revival architecture in Scotland”.

As part of their plans, music school bosses want to build an extension to the east of the site – which council planners labelled “discreet and sensitively handled” – and demolish some of the listed structures, including the former gymnasium block and lunch hall.

William Gray Muir, chairman of the RHSPT, said: “For a proposal of this significance it is remarkable that there were only four objections, compared to more than 500 people and groups who took the trouble to write in support.”

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