Comment: We must get hotel decision right

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THE Balmoral a blot on the landscape? The Caledonian Hotel an eyesore?

There are precious few people today, if any, who would agree with the critics who lambasted the Capital’s two existing five-star hotels when they were first built.

Revisiting the controversies of a previous century offers an interesting perspective as the city considers plans for a third luxury hotel.

It perhaps goes to show how we can all grow to love something that at first seems alien to its surroundings when the design is of high enough quality. Whether the “ribbon” hotel is of that standard is something that will be hotly debated tomorrow, but the designs have drawn admiring comments just as much as they have jibes.

It is certainly a timely reminder that we will most likely have to live with the results of tomorrow’s decision for a very long time, so it is important that we get it right.

There is no doubt that another five-star hotel would be a great boon for Edinburgh. The cry will inevitably go up, “but don’t we have enough hotels already?”

There has certainly been a huge increase in the number of budget accommodation being built in the Capital, but so far no similar expansion at the top end of the market. Another luxury hotel would be sure to draw many more high-spending visitors to Edinburgh and would be sure to take the shopping on offer at the new 
St James Quarter to another level.

The benefits, including a stunning public viewing area, are clear.

Such a weight of concern about the impact on the city’s historic centre cannot be lightly dismissed. But will adding the equivalent of an extra storey to the height of a 12-floor building and some more width really destroy the panoramic views from Calton Hill? By all means, councillors should throw out the plans if they think they are ugly and out of keeping, but doesn’t getting hung up on the impact on the skyline risk missing the bigger picture?