Hotel developers vow to bring forward 'more modest' plans for old Royal High School building in Edinburgh

Developers behind a controversial luxury hotel proposed for Edinburgh's iconic Royal High School building, which were rejected by the Scottish Government last month following a public inquiry, have revealed they are to bring forward fresh plans for the site.

Proposed extension to the historic Royal High School on Calton Hill sparked huge controversy.
Proposed extension to the historic Royal High School on Calton Hill sparked huge controversy.

They have revealed that a "more modest" proposal for an "arts hotel" would be brought forward for the A-listed building, after plans which would have seen two multi-storey extensions created, were thrown out.

Despite pledges that more than 250 full-time jobs would have been created, the hotel project was rejected by ministers on the grounds that there would have been “considerable damage to the setting of one of the most important neoclassical buildings in the city.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The move will dismay campaigners against the luxury hotel plans and backers of an alternative scheme which would see the building become the new home of an independent music school.

The building has been lying empty for more than half a century. Picture: Scott Louden

It will dash hopes that work will be able to get underway as early as next year on the rival scheme, which is being bankrolled by American arts philanthropist Carol Grigor, and already has planning permission.

The local authority, which is believed to be tied into its hotel lease agreement until 2022, has yet to decide how to proceed in the wake of the government upholding its rejection of the designs for the £75m Rosewood hotel, which was predicted to deliver a £75m boost to the citys economy, for a second time.

The Cockburn Association heritage watchdog has called on the council to end its "contractual relationship" and urged developers Urbanist Hotels and Duddingston House Properties to "step aside” to allow the proposed relocation of St Mary’s Music School from the city’s west end to proceed.

However Taco van Heusden, co-founder of Urbanist Hotels, has called on the city council - which agreed to lease the building to allow it to become an “arts hotel” 10 years ago - to prioritise "jobs and investment" on the site rather than embark on "long procurement delays."

Councillors have already backed plans to turn the Old Royal High School in Edinburgh into a new music school and concert hall.

He claimed that the hotel school was rejected on the grounds of the impact of the two “wings” on either side of the existing building and suggested the proposed music school would involve the “careless destruction of internal fabric” of the historic site.

Posting on social media, he said: “We will put forward a more modest arts hotel proposal that fits the now established parameter.

"Scale was established more than four-five years ago, inevitably things do change. Detailed proposals will come in due course.

“In these times especially, Edinburgh needs jobs and investment not years of new procurement process.

“The council also needs to be released from its £250,000 annual maintenance costs. There are much better ways to spend that money.

“Across Europe such buildings are converted into hotels because of its more flexible internal layouts. Fabric destruction will not be the answer. This building must be rescued.”

A spokesman for the Cockburn Association said: “The developers dismissed more modest proposals at the outset as unviable, so they now need to stand aside.

“The council needs to end its contractual relationship asap to allow other opportunities to advance."

A council spokeswoman said: “We’re considering how we go forward and will bring a report back in due course on how to secure the best long-term future for this iconic building.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.