Poll finds public support for music school at old Royal High

The future of the former Royal High School is the source of an on-going debate. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
The future of the former Royal High School is the source of an on-going debate. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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Public opinion has swung behind a bid to turn one of Edinburgh’s most prominent landmarks into a new music school and concert venue – with 80 per cent of residents now backing the idea.

Just 10 per cent of people in the city were in favour of a rival project for the Old Royal High School, which would see it turned into a luxury hotel, an Ipsos Mori poll has found.

It was commissioned by the Royal High School Presevation Trust – set up two years ago to pursuing alternative plan, even though the hotel developers have a lease agreement with the city council.

Planners rejected plans for the hotel and then backed the relocation of St Mary’s Music School from the west end of of the city to the Calton Hill site.

Almost half of those surveyed by Ipsos Mori earlier this year criticised the “unattractive design” of the proposed hotel – which would see multi-storey extensions built on either side of the existing building for the hotel’s five-star accommodation.

More than two thirds said the main benefit of allowing the music school to take over the 1829 landmark would be the nurturing of Scottish talent, with 41 per cent saying it would be in keeping with its original use. Tourism benefits were cited by nearly half of respondents as the most important gain with Scotland’s first Rosewood hotel.

More than a quarter of people cited the 250 jobs that would be created and the £35 million economic boost it is expected to bring. However, 42 per of the 500 people polled between April and June this year said the city did not need another major hotel.

The results of the survey were released ahead of a rally for the music school’s “Perfect Harmony” at the Canongate Kirk on Thursday.

Trust chair William Gray Muir said: “We thought it was important to take an objective reading of public opinion. We asked Ipsos Mori to present our plans and those for the hotel with both sets of designs as part of face-to-face home-based interviews.

“The vast majority of the people of Edinburgh do not want another hotel at this site and there is little enthusiasm for the perceived benefits. Instead they see the exciting opportunities a national music school within the prestigious and historic surroundings of one of our most important buildings would bring in terms of nurturing young talent and cultural heritage.

“The Old Royal High was built for public use. Our proposals would ensure it stays that way.”

David Orr, co-founder of Urbanist Hotels, one of the firms behind the hotel scheme, said: “We remain 100 per cent committed to our revised proposals which maintain the historic centrepiece of the original Thomas Hamilton building as the heart of the new Rosewood Hotel, making it publicly accessible for the first time since 1829.

“Our design will conserve the original building.”