The former Royal High School (1825-1829), designed by architect Thomas Hamilton (1784-1858), is widely regarded as one of the world highlights of Greek revival architecture.
Listed at Category A, it lies within the New Town conservation area as well as the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site.
Its site, on the slope of Calton Hill, is also designated as part of the New Town Gardens (on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscape).
The School makes an important contribution to the world-renowned appearance of Calton Hill, and is a key building within the World Heritage location.
The school function was relocated from this building to Barnton, and the vacated building modified in anticipation of the creation in 1979, of a Scottish Assembly.
The Royal High School is owned by the City of Edinburgh Council, which has over several years sought a new use for it.
Since 2010, Historic Environment Scotland (formerly Historic Scotland) has provided advice to the Council and applicants on proposals for the former Royal High School.
This has included attending workshops organised by the developers, involving key stakeholders such as Edinburgh World Heritage, and the City of Edinburgh Council. Our advice has been consistent over that period.
We were formally consulted recently by City of Edinburgh Council in regard to Duddingston House Properties & Urbanist Hotels’ application to convert the building to a 127 bedroom hotel.
We sent a letter objecting to the planning permission and listed building consent on 24 March 2017 as well as comments on the Environmental Statement. Our letter included copies of correspondence detailing the advice given over the last seven years, and can be seen here
Our letter also confirms we are committed to securing the repair, reuse and long term future of the Royal High School, but that we do not consider a hotel of the scale proposed for the site can be achieved without significant harm to the building and historic environment more widely.
We also consider there may be alternative schemes that could repair and reuse the listed building with less harm to its setting.
As a statutory consultee, the purpose of our advice is to assist the City of Edinburgh Council as planning authority to make a decision on the applications.
In December 2015 a proposal by Duddingston House Properties to convert the former Royal High School into a luxury hotel was rejected by the City of Edinburgh Council’s Development Management Sub-Committee.