Hotel developers deal out blows over new Royal High plans

Developers behind controversial plans to turn Edinburgh's former Royal High School into a luxury hotel have slammed critics of the project '“ as they unveiled a scaled-back vision for the site.
How the site will look if the hotel is built. Picture: contributedHow the site will look if the hotel is built. Picture: contributed
How the site will look if the hotel is built. Picture: contributed

New plans lodged with the city council for the project reveal that it will now have 127 rooms, 20 fewer than originally envisaged. But its backers, who are preparing to invest nearly £70 million, have accused the city’s own planning officials of presenting the case in a “misleading” and “factually incorrect” manner at a crucial hearing which saw the proposals rejected by councillors.

The new submission to the city council by Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group (DHP/UH) aims to pursue their original vision “to restore the unique building to prominence” and “create a world-class hotel of international standing”.

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However, in addition to the adapted plans, DHP/UH publicly attacked supporters of a rival scheme to create a new home for St Mary’s Music School, which the hotel developers say has not been demonstrated to be “viable or deliverable”.

Specific criticism is made of Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH), Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, the New Town-Broughton Community Council, planning officers and councillors.

A detailed dissection of rival plans, submitted by the Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT), claims motivation for the alternative bid was based only on a desire to “replace” the hotel scheme.

In response, William Gray Muir of RHSPT said: “The plans that have been shown today do nothing to address the issues which caused the previous application to be rejected on eleven separate planning grounds.

“It appears that the developer has no respect for the bodies who are put in place to look after our heritage.

“This is one of Scotland’s most important buildings and its future should be decided on the basis of consensus and having fully and open-mindedly consulted those with most expertise.

“Duddingston House base their application on a wholly untested business plan. Their own consultants concede that developing a luxury hotel is highly risky both in terms of costs and revenues.

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“If consent is granted for this highly risky project its fate could be tied up for years with a scheme which cannot be delivered. By contrast, the RHSPT’s unanimously consented scheme is popular, deliverable and funded.”