Royal Blind School to cash in on Edinburgh icon

The Royal Blind School building at Craigmillar Park. Picture: Toby Williams
The Royal Blind School building at Craigmillar Park. Picture: Toby Williams
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AN iconic building where visually impaired children have been taught for almost 180 years is up for sale – and is expected to fetch the Capital’s Royal Blind School millions.

Property experts said the city could be in line for a massive flats development after it was confirmed the school’s historic Craigmillar Park site would be sold as part of ambitious plans to merge two campuses.

And school leaders, who hope to relocate all pupils by autumn 2014, said they would plough proceeds from the sale into refurbishing their Canaan Lane centre to make it “fit for purpose” as a 21st century ­educational establishment.

Justin Beveridge, associate director at DTZ Edinburgh, which is marketing the C-listed property, said: “This is three-and-a-half acres of prime Edinburgh – with a significant property that we are very pleased to be helping with.It could be put to a number of uses – another institutional-type use, such as a sheltered housing complex, or it could be residential.”

Set up in 1835 by Edinburgh printer James Gall, the Royal Blind School grew quickly and merged with the educational unit of the asylum. It offered subjects as diverse as Braille printing, English, geography, history and organ playing.

The decision to sell Craigmillar Park is part of a drive to make Royal Blind even more specialised in educating children with visual impairment, as well as those who have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Also included in the merger plan is the creation of a national resource centre, which will support pupils in schools across Scotland

Leaders at Royal Blind said they hoped it would remain in educational use under new ownership.

Julie Fardell, the school’s principal, said: “I think staff and pupils here would love it if it was going to be used as some kind of school or children’s facility.

“There are mixed feelings about the sale – a degree of excitement at the fact that we are moving to a new campus in Canaan Lane that’s going to be redesigned and refurbished, but also sadness at leaving the old building.

“It’s a beautiful building and a lot of the staff have been here for a very long time – 20 years or more in some cases.”

Richard Hellewell, chief executive, said: “The Royal Blind School has been ­educating and caring for pupils with a visual impairment since 1835 and we will continue to provide the highest ­quality ­specialist education in the years to come.”