IT is no surprise to see city officials recommending that the luxury hotel plans for the old Royal High are thrown out.
Their job, after all, is to look at the proposals through what is ultimately a fairly narrow prism of planning rules and regulations. When councillors sit down to decide the fate of the project next week they will have to step back and take a broader view. They must weigh up both the clear economic benefits that would flow from Rosewood Hotels’ £75 million plans and the question of the impact the designs, “Inca steps” and all, would have on our built heritage.
The benefits are many and varied, starting with the 600-plus jobs it would create – close to some of the neighbourhoods with the highest unemployment in the Capital – and the money its guests would spend in shops, restaurants, taxis, and so on. But they don’t stop there. Edinburgh Airport is keen to see a luxury hotel of this calibre in Edinburgh because its first-class traveller guests will subsidise many of the flights that the rest of us enjoy to destinations around the world.
The Balmoral and Caledonian are keen to see another five-star hotel in the city. They know that instead of being a rival they will attract more high-spending tourists to Edinburgh. The city is packed with budget hotels, but it is crying out for a world-class, luxury facility.
And, if we say no to this one, no one knows how long it will be before another comes along.
The music school plans are a bit of a red herring. The city went through a long and open process before deciding that a hotel was the most appropriate use for the site. The question now is whether or not architect Gareth Hoskins designs are appropriate.
There has been strong opposition from heritage organisations whose views have been echoed by the city planners’ warning of “permanent and irreversible damage” to the landscape. Their views, however, are at odds with at least a large section of the general public who see no such problem.
The view of this newspaper is that the proposed hotel would be an asset to Edinburgh, significantly boosting our economy and creating a showpiece hotel of which the city could be truly proud.