Edinburgh planning: Plans lodged to turn former Royal High School building into the National Centre for Music

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Plans for Edinburgh landmark at Calton Hill move forward

A revised full planning application and a listed building consent application have been lodged for the former Royal High School building, to form new premises for the National Centre for Music.

The plans include music rehearsal and performance spaces, licensed café/restaurant and bar facilities, offices, internal and external alterations and landscaping, at 5-7 Regent Road, Edinburgh.

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An artist's impression of inside the former Royal High School building when it becomes the National Centre for Music.An artist's impression of inside the former Royal High School building when it becomes the National Centre for Music.
An artist's impression of inside the former Royal High School building when it becomes the National Centre for Music. | Sub

The main change to the original approved plans for the category A-listed site are that there will no longer be any new buildings constructed there, with the existing buildings being used to house the new music centre.

The proposals to rejuvenate the iconic building, once put forward as a possible home for the new Scottish Parliament, have been talked about for years, and although full planning permission had already been granted, the plans seemed to stall. With previous plans to move St Mary’s Music School to the site and hotel proposals abandoned.

However, now the full revised planning application has been submitted, it seems like the National Centre for Music plans might soon hit the right note for the landmark city centre site.

The proposed cafe and foyer area of the the National Centre for Music at the former Royal High School.The proposed cafe and foyer area of the the National Centre for Music at the former Royal High School.
The proposed cafe and foyer area of the the National Centre for Music at the former Royal High School. | Sub

The Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT) has submitted the plans for the Thomas Hamilton-designed former Royal High School building. The application site extends to include the school grounds.

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Grant MacKenzie, executive director at the Royal High School Preservation Trust said: “We have submitted revised plans to the City of Edinburgh Council, which is required as the project has been re-focussed, now that St Mary’s Music School is no longer to be included on the same site.

“The new plans focus on the preservation of the Category A listed building and there are now no new build elements involved. The aim is to create even greater access to the public, providing live music and education spaces, as well as a new public space to secure this architectural masterpiece.

“Once we have approval of these plans, we will release further information and next steps on this exciting journey for the former Royal High School building.”

An artist's impression of the proposed secondary performance space octagons.An artist's impression of the proposed secondary performance space octagons.
An artist's impression of the proposed secondary performance space octagons. | Sub

The planning application states that “the RHSPT supports a fully funded vision for the future of the Royal High School building to accommodate the new National Centre for Music”.

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It adds: “The proposals relate to a design amendment to the approved consent application and the proposed development is narrated in further detail.”

The removal of a new build on site in the plans has allowed for extensive public realm and landscaping to be achieved according to the proposal, creating a public garden and a “more suitable setting for the listed buildings”.

The proposals include provision of external multi-use space for temporary events/festival uses, as well as access and associated works.

Royal High School vacated the premises in 1968 and moved to Barnton.Royal High School vacated the premises in 1968 and moved to Barnton.
Royal High School vacated the premises in 1968 and moved to Barnton.

The site has been owned by the City of Edinburgh Council since the Royal High School vacated for new premises in 1968.

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Over the intervening 56 years, the buildings have had intermittent use. In the late 1970s conversion work was undertaken to provide a location for the anticipated Scottish Assembly, however in the last 20 years the majority of the buildings have lain empty.

Demolitions and site enabling works have already commenced in relation to previously approved applications.

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