Music school still in pole position at Royal High - Kevin Buckle

News recently that the Old Royal High School was to be put back on the market came as a surprise to some who thought that, with the end of the six-star hotel plans, it was to become a music school.

Saturday, 17th July 2021, 7:00 am
Thomas Hamilton's neoclassical masterpiece was completed in 1829 on the southern face of Calton Hill and fully merits its lofty position. Although no longer a school, a campaign to prevent the vacant building from being transformed into a hotel and instead become a new national music school continues to make its voice heard.

This, of course, was never likely, given the need for the council to show due diligence, but the implication from the council’s statement was that there had been informal interest and putting the school on the market like this would mean serious offers could now be made.

Given some time has passed since the hotel was forced to bow out, I would imagine that news of any offers should come fairly soon and that will be very interesting indeed, given it was the council itself that declared a hotel to be the best option.

There is no doubt we are now living in different times, but all the problems with redeveloping the ORHS still remain and if anything the issues may now be more extensive.

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The music school is, of course, in pole position already having planning permission despite some controversial interventions on the building as well as having finance in place.

To save even more time being wasted, the most sensible thing for them to do would be to make their bid and then dare other developers to better it.

I haven’t spoken to anyone who can think of an option more viable than a hotel, so it is hard to imagine what other offers will be made. Having said that, the council officers seem convinced other offers will be brought forward and again, if nothing else for the sake of the building, these options need to be considered sooner rather than later.

The disaster for the council, of course, will be if the music school finds a reason to backtrack on their offer. The trust behind the school was, on their own admission, set up to stop the hotel rather than support the music school, so should they consider it job done, that would be a possibility.

Such a move, however, would show no regard for the building whatsoever, given it was accepted the hotel would “save” the building, but in the opinion of the Reporters, unacceptably spoil the views.

Clearly, as the music school has already shown its hand, all it needs to do is confirm everything is in place and it would be a brave developer prepared to invest the time and money needed to oppose them. In poker terms they simply need to go all in and see if anybody calls them.

Should an idea appear to rival the music school option, hopefully at least the various permissions needed can be fast-tracked so a decision can be made as quickly as is sensible.

Many of the problems for the hotel seemed to stem from the change in council administration and a planning committee that clearly had different views to those that had gone before them.

The nightmare scenario is that this drags on into the next administration who then turn about face again and decide that what is really needed is a nice six-star luxury hotel. Stranger things have happened!