Hotel developers accused of holding Royal High '˜hostage'

One of Edinburgh's most prominent buildings is being 'held hostage' by hotel developers who are 'playing games' over its future, according to the charity trying to take over the world-famous landmark.

An artists impression of the hotel plan for the Royal High. Picture: Contributed
An artists impression of the hotel plan for the Royal High. Picture: Contributed

A trust hoping to convert the old Royal High School on Calton Hill into a music school and concert hall has urged politicians to intervene over the fate of the A-listed landmark as it launched a new campaign to win control of the building.

It has accused the firms behind the planned Rosewood hotel of trying to tie the city council and the building “in legal knots” and proving “incapable” of coming up with viable acceptable plans.

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The Rosewood scheme was thrown into turmoil in August after it was unanimously rejected by councillors.

The Royal High School Development Trust, which won permission last year for a relocation of St Mary’s Music School to the site, said it could “start tomorrow” if politicians intervened over the fate of the 1829 building, which has been largely empty since 1968.

They have been urged to “take an active role” to break the “logjam” and demand the release of an agreement struck with the city council after the hotel concept won a design contest in 2010.

William Gray Muir, chair man of the trust, said: “The hotel developers’ contract with the council was entirely conditional on them getting planning consent for their scheme, and they fully took on the risk of getting that consent. But they have proved incapable of coming up with a viable scheme which would be acceptable in planning terms.

“Given the unanimous rejection of the hotel scheme and the very robust stance taken by all of the key statutory bodies the prospects of a successful appeal must be very remote. It seems the hotel developers are hoping to tie the council and the building in legal knots with no serious attempt to find an acceptable solution.”

“We want to urge our politicians to take an active role and break the logjam which seems to have caught the Royal High School. It simply isn’t acceptable that one of the great buildings of the Scottish Enlightenment should be held hostage.”

David Orr, chairman of Urbanist Hotels, one of the hotel developers, said: “Our scheme remains the only proposal that can realistically guarantee the future of the building – both architecturally and financially. Without it we’re facing a very real risk of another 50 years of decay and locked doors, which would be catastrophic for both the building and the city. We remain 100 per cent committed to delivering in line with our agreement.”