Background

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 Site.

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 past sought a new use for it.

Current position

Since 2010, Historic Environment Scotland [‘HES’] (formerly Historic Scotland) has provided advice 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 World Class Hotel.

We sent a letter objecting to the planning permission on 17 September 2015. On Wednesday 30 September we sent more detailed comments to the Council on the planning permission, as well as comments on the listed building consent and the Environmental Statement. Our letter included copies of correspondence detailing the advice given over the last five years, and can be seen here.

Our letter also confirms that 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 intended on the site can be achieved without significant harm to the building and historic environment more widely.

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.

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