Royal High School hotel bid rejected by Edinburgh Council

An artist's impression of the proposed hotel on the Royal High School site. Picture: Contributed

An artist's impression of the proposed hotel on the Royal High School site. Picture: Contributed

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A PLAN to turn the old Royal High School building in ­Edinburgh into a luxury hotel has been narrowly rejected by city ­councillors.

They voted to throw out the controversial move to convert the A-listed Calton Hill site, following an all-day planning meeting yesterday.

But developers later vowed they would not “give up at the first hurdle” and said they would be pushing ahead with a fresh bid to secure the building.

They insisted their contract with the council – drawn up after they won an open competition to develop the site five years ago – would last until 2022, giving them seven years to lodge any new planning application.

But campaigners behind an alternative scheme to transform the site into a new home for St Mary’s Music School insisted yesterday’s decision left the door open for them to pursue their vision instead.

It is understood both side are now preparing for a prolonged legal tussle over the celebrated landmark.

Taco van Heusden, managing director of Urbanist Hotels – which is driving the hotel project alongside Duddingston House Properties – said: “The council cannot do anything else with the site until that contract is up - as long as there are efforts [on our part] to move it on.”

Last night Mr Van Heusden declined to confirm whether developers would be lodging an appeal with the Scottish Government.

But he hinted that reducing the size of the 147-bed hotel – which critics and planners said was too big – could be one option on the table.

“The other key thing to keep in mind is that it was a split decision – by eight votes to seven,” he said. “We owe it to the 93 per cent of Edinburgh’s population who back the plans to solve this. What direct route we will take, or what strategy, that’s really too early to tell. All I can say is we were given a challenge, and we are not going to give up on the first hurdle.”

The £75 million plans to transform the building into a five-star hotel would have seen two “Inca-style” stepped extensions built on either side of the main structure.

Earlier this year, fully-funded alternative proposals to turn the building into a new home for St Mary’s Music School were launched by the Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT). William Gray Muir, chairman of the Trust, said he was “delighted” the council had acknowledge the vital heritage value of the building.

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