Battle lines drawn as £200k Old Royal High School inquiry begins

St Mary's Music School launches The Note campaign to win support for their old Royal High bid.
St Mary's Music School launches The Note campaign to win support for their old Royal High bid.
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Groups proposing rival visions for the old Royal High building on Calton Hill have drawn battle lines ahead of a pricey public inquiry starting today.

Costing nearly £200,000, Scottish Government reporters will decide the future of one of the Capital’s most iconic landmarks during a six-week inquiry held at Tynecastle Park stadium. And just 24 hours before, campaigners with an alternative view of the future of the site launched a new drive to garner support for their plans.

Proposals to develop the vacant building into the new home for St Mary’s Music School were given the green light in 2016 but developers Duddingston House Properties (DHP) and Urbanist Hotels, who currently hold the rights to the site, want to push plans forward to transform the site into a luxury hotel.

Edinburgh City Council refused planning permission and listed building consent to bring a Rosewood hotel to the site in December 2015 and revised designs for a more scaled-back hotel were again chucked out in August 2017.

The co-developers have appealed the decisions and have enlisted President Trump’s lawyers Ann Faulds and Gordon Steele QC, who he used for legal battles over his Aberdeenshire golf course.

But urging the public to consider an alternative use for the former school building is the music school lobby who launched The Note campaign yesterday.

Claiming to “strike the right note” residents across Edinburgh and Scotland are being invited to send “a polite note” to the First Minister to register their support for the development of the building as a new home for St Mary’s Music School, backed by the Dunard Fund.

Headteacher of St Mary’s Music School, Dr Kenneth Taylor said: “The aim of the Note campaign is to send a simple message using a simple, polite but witty visual reminder, that the future of the Old Royal High School is still undecided and that it’s particularly important that the Scottish Government is aware of the strength of feeling about the future of the Old Royal High.

“We have been greatly heartened by the size and strength of the wonderful support we have already received from so many people in Edinburgh, as well as prominent figures in the arts and music community – Nicola Benedetti, Sir James MacMillan, Alexander Armstrong and Steven Osborne, to name just a few.

“Scotland’s national music school exists to provide specialist music education to young musicians from across Scotland and beyond, regardless of their financial circumstances.

“Moving to the Old Royal High School would give the school increased capacity.

“Furthermore, we could open our doors to Edinburgh, Scotland and internationally with a whole range of new music activities. So we would become much more of a community asset than we could possibly be in our present location.”

The Royal High School Preservation Trust, behind the music school bid, claimed the project would protect the neo-classical building while securing the school’s positions as a centre of youth music in the Capital.