Eight in 10 back luxury hotel, claim developers

Royal High School  developers say they have won majority support for their plan to turn it into a hotel. Picture: TSPL
Royal High School developers say they have won majority support for their plan to turn it into a hotel. Picture: TSPL
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More than 80 per cent of people in Edinburgh are supportive of one of its most famous landmarks becoming a luxury hotel, according to an opinion poll commissioned by developers.

They are claiming to have won majority support for the £75 million scheme earmarked for the former Royal High School on Calton Hill, based on a survey of 400 residents last month.

More than half of people polled across the city said they were “completely in favour” of specific designs which critics warn could see Edinburgh stripped of its world heritage site status after 20 years.

Some 69 per of residents said they were strongly in favour of the principle of an international hotel being created in the building, which has been lying virtually empty for nearly 50 years.

However, as the survey was for the two developers behind the hotel project, respondents were not asked their views about an alternative scheme, which would see a music school relocate to architect Thomas Hamilton’s renowned masterpiece.

Pollsters took to the streets last month to show how proposed six-storey extensions would look when they are built beside the A-listed landmark, which dates back to 1829 and is regarded as one of the capital’s most important buildings.

The findings have been released just days after it emerged more than 2,000 objections have been lodged with Edinburgh City Council over the scheme, which has been some six years in the planning.

American operator Rosewood hopes to open a 147-bedroom hotel – its fourth in Europe – on the site by 2018 in a project which is predicted to create more than 260 jobs and generate more than £27 million a year for the city’s economy.

But the project is facing huge opposition amid fears that classic views of the city, including historic landmarks and monuments on Calton Hill, will be ruined. Critics include the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, which was set up to oversee the city’s Old and New Towns, government agency Historic Scotland and the Save Britain’s Heritage campaign group.

Respondents to the survey by Edinburgh-based consultants Scott Porter, were shown several images – created by project architect Gareth Hoskins – of the completed development, as well as other Rosewood sites in Paris, London, Tuscany and New York.

David Orr, chairman of the Urbanist Group, said: “We wanted to understand exactly what people across the city thought about the proposals.

“The answers are consistent across all of the demographics surveyed, which demonstrate the majority of Edinburgh citizens want the hotel project to go ahead. This is an opportunity to bring this area of the city back to life with a proposition which will create hundreds of jobs across the city and the country.

“The research has been submitted to accompany the robust, fully-funded plans to restore the former Royal High School building and bring a new world-class hotel to Edinburgh.”

William Gray Muir, chairman of the Royal High School Preservation Trust, which is pursuing a new home for St Mary’s Music School, said it had found overwhelming back during its own consultation exercises. He added: “We see ever growing support for our exciting and fully funded proposal, which would bring the buildings back into a vibrant cultural and public use.”