29 October, 2020

Inquiry into former Royal High School, Edinburgh

Public inquiry upheld the refusal of planning applications to turn Edinburgh’s former Royal High School into a hotel.

Scottish Ministers issued their decisions on the four planning and listed building consent appeals in relation to the proposed redevelopment.

The former Royal High School is a category A listed building of international importance. It is prominently sited on the southern slope of Calton Hill, which is included in the national Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. The site is within the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site, and the New Town Conservation Area.

Plans for two separate schemes for the redevelopment of the former school as a luxury hotel were submitted by Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels to the City of Edinburgh Council. Each of the proposed developments would have involved internal and external alterations to the principal former Royal High School building and pavilions (referred to as the Hamilton building, after its architect Thomas Hamilton), the addition of two large extensions and the demolition of ancillary buildings.

The Council refused the applications and developers appealed. The Scottish Ministers directed that they would determine the appeals because they raised issues of national importance in terms of potential impacts on the historic environment, including the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site, and in relation to potential economic and tourism benefits. The appeals were considered by means of public inquiry and hearing sessions, which took place between 18 September and 23 October 2018.

The decision can be viewed on the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) website here.

Marcus McKay QC instructed by Harper Macleod, representing Historic Environment Scotland.

Malcolm Thomson QC instructed by Burness Paull, representing City of Edinburgh Council.



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