Adam Wilkinson, who has been the director of Edinburgh World Heritage since 2008, was quizzed by Gordon Steele QC at the public inquiry into the future of the old Royal High site on Calton Hill. He was asked about an image he provided at a Save Royal High School public meeting in March last year.
Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels are appealing the decision by the City of Edinburgh Council in August 2017 to refuse planning permission and listed building consent for revised proposals to develop a Rosewood hotel at the Calton Hill site.
The meeting in question, held at Central Hall in Tollcross, was supported by the Cockburn Association and Edinburgh World Heritage.
Mr Wilkinson said: “I prepared a montage, which was done for illustrative purposes. On reflection, I should have used a different image and I apologise for having used that image. It was an honest mistake. The image used was inaccurate, it involved Photoshop.”
The doctored image showed the proposed extensions to the school as significantly bigger than detailed in the submitted plans, indicating the proposals would have a greater impact on Calton Hill than was put forward by the developers.
Mr Steele said: “The images that you prepared in the way that you did, it was significantly different to the accurate montage that was available to you.
“Do you accept that this may have had the effect in influencing public opinion on what our proposal actually was, by virtue of the fact that a respected director of a very respected organisation put forward a montage, which in truth was wrong and misleading?”
Mr Wilkinson refuted any claims his mistake would have influenced support for the campaign opposing the hotel plans. He said: “I think it’s highly unlikely that it influenced people greatly, given the number of images shown on the evening, given the numbers present and also given the number of other images that appeared in the press from the development side.”
Edinburgh World Heritage formally opposed the hotel plans for the listed building, believing the scheme would endanger the World Heritage status of the Scottish capital.
An Edinburgh World Heritage spokesman said: “The intent was to create a fair representation of the proposed hotel’s visual impact. In retrospect, we accept that the image was not wholly accurate.”