Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Inquiry into future of Edinburgh's Royal High School begins

Royal High site Image copyright Hayes Davidson
Image caption The public inquiry will last for six weeks

A public inquiry which will determine the future of one of Edinburgh's most historic buildings has started.

Developers want to transform the old Royal High School on Calton Hill into a luxury hotel.

But a new campaign has called for it be turned into a music school.

Two Scottish government reporters have been tasked with leading the inquiry which is being held at Heart of Midlothian's Tynecastle Park stadium and is expected to last six weeks.

Since the Royal High School moved out 50 years ago, the building on Calton Hill has only been used on a temporary basis. Plans for the Scottish Parliament to be based there, then a museum of photography, all fell by the wayside.

Unique situation

Campaigners for St Mary's Music School - whose supporters include Nicola Benedetti and Sir James Macmillan - this week launched a new campaign to make the building their home.

Although they have planning permission, they cannot proceed due to the hotel development plans.

Image copyright Hayes Davidson
Image caption An impression of the revised design that was rejected by planners

Co-developers Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels are appealing against City of Edinburgh Council's decision to refuse planning permission for a Rosewood hotel on the site in August 2017

They are also appealing the council's initial refusal to grant planning permission in December 2015.

'Generous funding'

The alternative plan for the music school was given the green light in 2016 with a seven-year expiry date on consent due to the unique situation with the hotel plans being appealed.

Despite the approval of the music school plans, St Mary's currently has no right to the building because of an agreement between the council and the hotel developers, which is understood to run until 2022.

Those behind the hotel plans have previously said they are "wholly committed to bringing a world-class hotel to the Old Royal High School site - in line with our contractual agreement with City of Edinburgh Council".

Dr Kenneth Taylor, headteacher of St Mary's Music School, said money to back the music school plans was already in place.

He told BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "To rebuild the school and to provide a school on the site, we think it would cost somewhere in the region of £35m.

"We've got that money already. The money is there thanks to very generous philanthropic funding from the Dunard Fund."

He added: "The building just wouldn't be a school, I would think of it more as a cultural hub in the middle of Edinburgh and we would plan to greatly expand our existing outreach schemes.

"At the moment we educate about 150 young people on a Saturday morning and we would at least treble that and we would hope to be providing music education both at the weekend and also in the evenings."

The first part of the inquiry will deal with the heritage impacts of the proposals, and is expected to last up to four weeks.

It will then go on to focus on the wider economic and tourism benefits.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites