IHBC 2016 School update: Edinburgh councillors unanimously reject Royal High School hotel plans

Delegates from the IHBC’s 2016 School in Worcester will remember the lively debate around Edinburgh’s heritage and commercial and hotel development, led by BEFS Director Euan Leitch and architect James Simpson, and may be especially interested to hear that even the revised plans to convert the Calton Hill landmark ‘Royal High School’ into a luxury hotel have been emphatically rejected by councillors, in line with city officers’ recommendations, and with many speaking in support of the effective management and care of the city and its heritage.

Edinburgh Evening News writes:

Developers have vowed to carry on their plans to turn the former Royal High School into a luxury hotel, despite seeing the proposal unanimously rejected by the council.

Urbanist Hotels and Duddingston House Properties said they remain ‘100 per cent’ committed to delivering a scheme on the site.

And with five years remaining of the contract held with Edinburgh council for the A-listed building, the developers are considering all options on how to progress the application.

Opponents of the scheme welcomed the councillors’ decision to uphold planning chiefs’ recommendation to refuse the proposal…

The BBC writes:

A report said the plan would have a ‘significant adverse impact’ on the site and did not comply with national guidelines on historic buildings.

The proposal included partial demolition of the existing structure, and the building of additional accommodation wings for the hotel.

Developers had said the plan would see the building become a ‘world class’ facility and was the only realistic option for the site.

David Orr, chairman of Urbanist Hotels, said: ‘We are naturally disappointed although not especially surprised that councillors have taken the decision not to approve our proposals.

‘It is especially disappointing and worrying that this decision was made amidst a backdrop of wilful misrepresentation and misleading campaigning by Edinburgh World Heritage and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland.

‘Despite this concerted and very public campaign against our proposals, we will continue to fulfil our contractual obligation with the council to revive a building which has been allowed to slip into a state of disrepair and neglect for more than 50 years.

‘We remain 100% committed to delivering this, or another scheme in line with our agreement with the council, which runs until 2022.

‘We will not leave the future of such a magnificent building hanging in the balance, shrouded by uncertainty and vague promises that do not stand up to scrutiny.’

William Gray Muir, chairman of the Royal High School Preservation Trust said: ‘We are very pleased to note the unanimous rejection of this application, embracing Scotland’s full political spectrum.  It is difficult to disagree with the committee convenor’s description of the proposal as ‘universally reviled’.

‘Not one of the many civic representatives who spoke today had received a single comment in favour of this scheme.

Dr Kenneth Taylor, head teacher at St Mary’s Music School, said the decision had boosted the chances of it being able to develop the site.

‘The school has always been conscious that the Royal High School Preservation Trust’s proposal to move St Mary’s Music School to the former Royal High School building would succeed only if the local authority opted to reject planning approval for an alternative commercial proposal for the site,’ he said. ‘We are delighted that councillors have taken that decision today.’

Claire Miller, Green councillor for Edinburgh city centre, said: ‘I’m delighted that the planning committee listened to the overwhelming evidence from our own officers, external experts and public opinion and rejected the proposal.  Perhaps, if the developer’s vision for the site had highlighted and showcased the wonderful architecture, preserved the heritage, and brought benefits to the neighbourhood then residents might have been supportive.’

‘However I don’t think these proposals are for a boutique hotel any more. If you need to build extensions to create over 100 bedrooms, then the buildings on the site just aren’t suitable for the hotel you’re trying to create.’

Read more at BBC News and in the Edinburgh News

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