Royal High plan: Developers reveal 100 champion backers

An artist's impression of the hotel plans for the old Royal High School. Picture: comp
An artist's impression of the hotel plans for the old Royal High School. Picture: comp
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DEVELOPERS behind a £75 million plan to turn the former Royal High School into a hotel have unveiled a 100-strong list of “champion” backers ahead of a crunch vote on the scheme.

The list includes key business and trade figures such as Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar and Marshall Dallas, boss of Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) as well as newsagents and hairdressers.

The list of backers released by DHP

The list of backers released by DHP

The plan by Duddingston House Properties (DHP) to convert the A-listed neoclassical structure at Calton Hill into a luxury hotel, operated by five-star chain Rosewood, will go before councillors later this week.

Each backer has signed an open statement which says: “We support the proposals by Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Group to save the former Royal High School building and restore it as a world-class hotel operated by Rosewood.”

Architect Sir Terry Farrell, designer of the EICC and MI6 buildings, Gordon Drummond, director of the Capital’s Harvey Nichols store, and Wedgwood restaurant co-owner Lisa Wedgwood are among other high-profile signatories.

Business leaders from across Scotland have also voiced support, including Glasgow tycoon Stefan King, owner of the G1 group of restaurants, bars and clubs.

Publication of the list comes after Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT) submitted a fully-funded planning application to turn the site into a base for St Mary’s Music School.

Critics of the DHP plan say it will destroy one of the Capital’s most spectacular pieces of architectural heritage. But signatories said approving it would provide a crucial boost to the pipeline of top-end hotels in Edinburgh as tourism leaders fight to attract visitors amid “increasingly fierce” international competition.

STA chair Stephen Leckie said: “Our national tourism strategy Tourism Scotland 2020 led and co-ordinated by the STA is a shared strategy for growth that has a clear vision to make Scotland a destination of first choice for high quality, value for money, memorable experiences delivered by skilled and passionate people.

“International competition is increasingly fierce and as a small country, we need to ensure that Scotland remains attractive to all potential 
markets.

“There is little doubt that a luxury hospitality brand will further help attract tourists from the top end of the market and create significant economic value for Edinburgh and the tourism economy in Scotland and offers huge opportunity for Scotland to showcase all we have to offer.”

Designed by Thomas Hamilton in the early 19th century, the former Royal High has lain neglected for almost 50 years after the former boys’ school moved to Barnton.

Mr Dewar said: “There have not been enough top-end hotels as we expand our reach into the long-haul routes, such as China and the Middle East. Having one of our most iconic buildings slipping into disrepair would be a woeful outcome.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com

Martin Hannan – Page 19