EIF chief blasts ‘Las Vegas’ Royal High School plan

Fergus Linehan said the hotel proposals made the building look 'kitsch and gimmicky'. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Fergus Linehan said the hotel proposals made the building look 'kitsch and gimmicky'. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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The director of the Edinburgh International Festival has hit out over the “kitsch and gimmicky” hotel plans for one of the city’s most celebrated landmarks and welcomed the prospect of a concert venue being created there instead.

Fergus Linehan said the design of the controversial Rosewood Hotel proposed for the old Royal High School was “a bit Las Vegas”.

The Irishman, who lodged a personal objection with Edinburgh City Council over the hotel proposals, said it was “healthy” that alternative uses are being explored for the A-listed building, which has been lying largely empty since 1968.

Mr Linehan said it would be “fantastic” if a new concert venue could be delivered – but admitted that prospect was “a long way down the road” for the former Royal High.

A trust pursuing a new home for Scotland’s only independent music school says it is ready to take on a redevelopment of the site following the narrow rejection of plans for the hotel development last week. The team behind the relocation of St Mary’s Music School, which is planned to increase in size by 50 per cent, have promised a 300-capacity concert hall would be created.

The developers behind the £75 million hotel scheme, which attracted more than 2,000 objections, insist they have no intention on giving up on the scheme “at the first hurdle” after agreeing a 125-year lease with the council five years ago. They are considering an appeal over the rejection of the 147-room hotel, which involves two six-storey extensions.

In his objection, Mr Linehan said: “A building that was created to advance the intellectual and cultural life of the country should not be committed for purely commercial uses.”

Mr Linehan told The Scotsman: “It is important to say I put this objection in as a citizen of Edinburgh. I felt the hotel proposals did not look right. They made the original features of the building look kind of kitsch and gimmicky. Set against the backdrop of the hill, they have an elegance and a timelessness about them. But this makes them look a bit Las Vegas.

“People weren’t upset by the fact this building was going to be used for something other than an educational facility. What they were upset about was it was going to have a negative effect on a very historically-important site. That was nothing to do with the other proposal that’s on the table. If it wasn’t there, those objections would still stand.

“It would be lovely if the building could respond to its original purpose and it would give it some security into the future if there was going to be an institution in there for many years. It is healthy that there are people talking about other uses of the building, although that’s not what I was responding to. Anyone who is looking to create a state-of-the-art, acoustically-perfect venue is going to be a friend of the Festival. That’s a long way down the road.”