Developers claim public backing for Royal High hotel

An artist's impression of the plans for the old Royal High School. Picture: comp
An artist's impression of the plans for the old Royal High School. Picture: comp
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MORE than 80 per cent of people in Edinburgh support plans to turn one of its most famous landmarks into a luxury hotel – according to an opinion poll commissioned by its proposed developer.

They are claiming to have won majority support for the £75 million scheme earmarked for the former Royal High School on Calton Hill, based on a survey of 400 residents.

More than half of people polled across the city said they were “completely in favour” of specific designs that critics warn could see Edinburgh stripped of its World Heritage Site status after 20 years.

Some 69 per of residents said they were strongly in favour of the principle of an international hotel being created in the building, which has been lying virtually empty for nearly 50 years.

Pollsters took to the streets last month to show how proposed six-storey extensions would look if they were built beside the A-listed landmark.

The findings have been released just days after it emerged more than 2000 objections have been lodged with the city council over the scheme.

American operator Rosewood hopes to open a 147-bedroom hotel on the site by 2018 in a project predicted to create more than 260 jobs and generate more than £27m a year for the city’s economy.

But the project is facing huge opposition amid fears that classic views of the city will be ruined. Critics include the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, which was set up to oversee the city’s Old and New Towns, government agency Historic Scotland and the Save Britain’s Heritage campaign.

Respondents to the survey by Capital-based consultants Scott Porter, were shown several images of the completed development, as well as other Rosewood sites in Paris, London, Tuscany and New York.

David Orr, chairman of hotel development firm Urbanist Group, said: “We wanted to understand exactly what people across the city thought about the proposals.

“The research has been submitted to accompany the robust, fully funded plans to restore the former Royal High School building and bring a new world-class hotel to Edinburgh.

“The answers are consistent across all of the demographics surveyed, which demonstrates the majority of Edinburgh citizens want the hotel project to go ahead.”

William Gray Muir, chairman of the Royal High School Preservation Trust, which is pursuing a new home for St Mary’s Music School on the site, said: “We see ever growing support for our exciting and fully funded proposal, which would bring the buildings back into a vibrant cultural and public use.”