Comment: Bruce Hare is not going to go away

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IF you thought that Star Wars was a long and drawn out saga, then brace yourself – you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The decision over what is to happen to the old Royal High School is set to run and run. The would-be developers of the historic site, Duddingston House Properties, might have seen their initial proposals for a luxury hotel thrown out by the narrowest of margins yesterday, but that is only the beginning. Duddingston owner Bruce Hare is a determined man and he is not ready to go away – far from it. And no one can blame him for that. He has invested years and hundreds of thousands of pounds in this project after being told by the city that they wanted to see the old school building converted into a hotel.

Such is the way for developers sometimes. Some projects become reality, some don’t, but this one is different from most others. The prize at stake is of the once-in-a-lifetime variety.

Pitted against Bruce Hare is another of the most formidable movers and shakers in the Capital’s property world, Willie Gray Muir. Once portrayed in some quarters as the pantomime villain of the Craighouse campus development, he is now seen as the white knight of the conservation lobby thanks to his rival plan to turn the old Royal High into a music school.

For the time being at least, Duddingston remains in the driving seat. It has the lease on the building and it has options. Could it secure planning permission by appealing over the council’s heads to the Scottish Government? Or by revisiting its plans and downsizing the wings that have caused so much consternation? Only time will tell.

The sad thing about the current impasse is that this beautiful building remains empty and its future unclear. This newspaper remains supportive of the hotel plans and believes that the city might grow to love the hotel if it is ever built. In the meantime, the only winners will be the lawyers.