PLANS for a new £75 million five-star luxury hotel at the former Royal High School on Calton Hill in Edinburgh feature dramatic “Inca-style” copper-clad grass-roofed terraces which appear to “climb” the hill behind it.
The plans, which were unveiled yesterday, leave the original A-listed building – designed in Greek revival style by Thomas Hamilton and opened in 1829 – largely intact while glass galleries will lead guests to their rooms on the terraces.
Proposals for the building, which has been empty since 1968 when the school moved to Barnton, have attracted controversy, with previous plans slammed after they included two large extensions on either side of the iconic landmark building.
Recent proposals supported by the Royal High School Preservation Trust would see the building become a new home for the city’s St Mary’s Music School.
Last night, heritage bodies strongly criticised the plans, saying their advice had been ignored and that the scale of the terraces would overpower the landscape. Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, who run 18 luxury hotels world-wide, including the Carlyle Hotel in New York and the Hôtel de Crillion in Paris, were also announced as operators for the new hotel.
The hotel will have 147 rooms starting at around £300 per night.
The plans are with Edinburgh City Council and, if the development gets the go-ahead, work will begin on site next January with the hotel opening in March 2018.
Gareth Hoskins, architect for the hotel, said the new plans reflected concerns raised.
“We’ve listened and taken on board views from a wide range of organisations and individuals through the pre-planning process to develop a fundamentally different design for the site.”
But Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, which promotes Edinburgh’s heritage, voiced concerns about the scale of the project.
“We are concerned by the quantum of development proposed as this cannot be delivered without significant harm to the unique character of this internationally important historic building and landscape setting.
“The large mass of the two new buildings are highly prominent, an overdevelopment of the site and harmful to the city landscape.”
Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, (EWA) said: “Throughout our engagement with the development team over the last few months, we have been clear that development to the west of the building will be difficult in terms of the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site.
“Hamilton’s Royal High School was designed in such a way that in views from the west one only sees the dramatic landscape of Calton Hill, Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags, giving an impression of the countryside in the heart of the city – one of the elements that makes Edinburgh such a special place.
“The clear and consistent advice EWA has given the development team over a number of months has been ignored, which is a matter of deep regret.”