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27 October 2020

The Royal High School Public Inquiry

A Public Local Inquiry began on 18 September 2018 into the refusal of planning permission and listed building consent for two development schemes for the conversion of the Royal High School, Edinburgh, to a luxury hotel. Updated June 2020

Exterior of The Royal High School

Update: October 2020

Following the appeal dismissal by Scottish Ministers, a spokesperson for HES said:

"We welcome the decision by Scottish Ministers to dismiss the appeal against the City of Edinburgh Council’s refusal of planning permission and listed building consent for two sets of proposals for the former Royal High School in Edinburgh.

"HES objected to the hotel proposals as we considered they were significantly detrimental to the special interest and setting of the former Royal High school, an A listed building and internationally important example of the Greek Revival style. HES also considered the proposals would have had an adverse impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site.

"In addition, HES also considered that options existed for the sustainable reuse of the building which better protected its special historic and architectural interest.

"We are currently looking over the decision in detail, but note that Ministers have agreed with HES that the proposed developments would have resulted in considerable damage to the setting of one of the most important neo-classical buildings in the city, and would have caused harm to the qualities which justified the inscription of the World Heritage Site.

"We remain committed to working with partners through the planning process to ensure that a positive and sustainable use can be found for this important and impressive building."

Update: June 2020

The Inquiry Reporters have now completed their report for Scottish Ministers, who will now make their decision on whether to allow or dismiss the appeal.

A spokesperson for HES said:

“HES objected to the hotel proposals as we considered the potential impacts on the building and its setting would be significantly detrimental.

“It is our long-term hope that a positive and sustainable new use will be found for this important and impressive building”.

September 2018

A Public Local Inquiry began on 18 September 2018 into the refusal of planning permission and listed building consent for two development schemes for the conversion of the Royal High School, Edinburgh, to a luxury hotel.

The Royal High School Building was purpose-built in the 1820s to accommodate the relocation of the school from the Old Town. It was designed by Thomas Hamilton in the Greek style fashionable at that time. We believe that, if built, the development would diminish the building’s significance and have an adverse impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site. We considered that alternatives for the building are likely to be possible. On that basis, we objected.

At the inquiry all parties will give evidence and be cross-examined. The Inquiry Reporters (independent government-appointed experts) will report to Scottish Ministers who will make the decision.

In the documents to support our case, we have set out in close detail what is significant about the Royal High School, its setting within the Designed Landscape around Calton Hill and its contribution to the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site. These documents are available to access at the links below. The Directorate of Planning and Environment Appeals website holds the material submitted by all parties.

A spokesperson for HES said

Our witnesses will present evidence about the importance of the Hamilton Building in its immediate and wider setting and the potential impacts of the proposed development.

"It is our long-term hope that a sustainable new use will be found for this important and impressive building”.

View inquiry sessions

Link to documentation on planning permission appeal (2015 application)

Link to documentation on listed building consent appeal (2015 application)

Link to documentation on planning permission appeal (2017 application)

Link to documentation on listed building consent appeal (2017 application)

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