Royal High School hotel plan recommend for refusal

Royal High School hotel mainEdinburgh council planners have urged councillors to reject proposals to transform the former Royal High School into a £75 million hotel.

Jointly developed by Urbanist Hotels and Duddingston House Properties the Calton Hill project has long been a bone of contention in the city.

Hoskins Architects’ designs for a 160-room development were revised down to 147 rooms after a public consultation “fundamentally altered” the initial plans. The original design was slated for being too modern and not blending into the surrounding area however new images have not allayed the fears of planning officials.

A rival plan to transform the building into a new concert hall and music school was also submitted and it is still to be considered, although this option is only likely to continue if councillors on the planning committee first reject the hotel plan.

The suggested rejection from planners comes despite claims from developers of “overwhelming” public support for the hotel. A total of 5,000 people across 12 city wards were quizzed on the plans, the fourth such consultation to be carried out since the project began, with 93 per cent agreeing that a hotel was a suitable end-use and 92 per cent backing the proposed design.

An alternative vision for the school has been submitted
An alternative vision for the school has been submitted

A summary from planning officials said the proposal would have “a significant adverse impact on the character” of the site.

It added: “While in general the development would accord with principles on accessibility and would have an economic benefit, these benefits are not outweighed by the harm to the historic environment. As such, the development is not sustainable development as defined by Scottish Planning Policy.

“The benefits to the City’s economy and to tourism through bringing an at risk building back into a sustainable long term use are not outweighed by the very significant harm to built heritage and landscape of the city.

“In coming to this conclusion, regard has been had to the exceptional architectural and historic interest of the Royal High School and the quality of its surrounding environment. The development would cause permanent and irreversible damage.

“Put simply, too much building is being proposed for this highly sensitive site.”

The City of Edinburgh Council will decide on the proposals when its planning committee meets next week.

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