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Royal High School saga continues with a decision to remarket the building

January 22 2021

Royal High School saga continues with a decision to remarket the building

The City of Edinburgh Council has agreed to remarket the Old Royal High School on Calton Hill as it seeks to wipe the slate clean on a contentious saga surrounding its future development.

A protracted stalemate has seen the A-listed landmark mothballed while two competing interests jostle for control waiting for a commercial agreement between the council and the hotel developers to expire in 2022.

Councillor Rob Munn, convener of the finance and resources committee which met in private yesterday to agree the sale, said: "I’m pleased that committee has unanimously agreed that we can now move forward and remarket this iconic building to identify the best value option for the city and our residents in the future.

"We know there are a number of interested parties out there and I think this is also the best and fairest way to proceed. A report with further details on how we’ll take this forward will be considered by councillors in May."

By going back to the drawing board the council hope to spark a bidding war for the landmark, which hasn't been in use since 1968, dealing a blow to the Royal High School Preservation Trust which was ready to go with its own music school venture.


Tortuous timeline:

  • Feb 2015: Duddingston House Properties with Gareth Hoskins Architects and the Urbanist Group launch a hotel conversion consultation
  • Mar 2015: A second consultation fleshes out proposals for a 'strong sculptural addition' to the school
  • Apr 2015: Rival plans to transform the landmark into a music school are first aired by The Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT)
  • Sep 2015: Richard Murphy Architects with Simpson & Brown are brought on board to conceive the alternative vision
  • Nov 2015: The hotel developers commission a poll indicating 92% public backing for the Hoskins design
  • Dec 2015: A rival planning application hits planners desks to transform the school into a performance space with 'near invisible' additions
  • Dec 2015: Planners duly reject Hoskins' £75m hotel but a contract to deliver the project remains in place with the authority
  • Aug 2016: City of Edinburgh Council formally backs the music school
  • Feb 2017: Revised proposals for a hotel are brought forward by Hoskins' with an admission that the original vision 'fell short'
  • July 2017: Duddingston & Urbanist warn the music school risks 'irreversible damage' to the historic fabric, claims dismissed out of hand by RHSPT
  • Sep 2017: Duddingston and Urbanist are knocked back a second time by planners but fight on
  • Oct 2018: Hotel backers remain 'positive' as a public inquiry is launched
  • Oct 2020: The hotel plan is rejected by the Scottish Government following a public inquiry


The Greek Revival landmark was refurbished in 1979 for an abortive Scottish Assembly
The Greek Revival landmark was refurbished in 1979 for an abortive Scottish Assembly


Mangy Fox
#1 Posted by Mangy Fox on 22 Jan 2021 at 10:26 AM
£20 bet someone is talking about putting Student Accommodation on this right now.
Alexander Fraser
#2 Posted by Alexander Fraser on 22 Jan 2021 at 10:46 AM
A real cop-out by the Council again. Price should most certainly not be the deciding factor in the disposal of this noble building. Its use must be a strong factor in the decision. Strictly commercial factors are likely to result in an unsatisfactory outcome. cf. Princes Street.
Nairn's Bairn
#3 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 22 Jan 2021 at 11:02 AM
@#1 .. and Wetherspoons and Travelodge right behind that.

It's such a shame that the Scottish Parliament wasn't an option here (think Reichstag), it could have been so much better than the pile of concrete & bamboo down the road.

This building needs a use befitting it, but short of a civic purpose it will end up being commercial (hotel/students/pub) and sometimes having it occupied by something is better than nothing at all. To be fair to Wetherspoons, they have breathed life into a few historic buildings.
#4 Posted by Elmo on 26 Jan 2021 at 13:04 PM
Fingers crossed it can be repurposed as an elected second chamber once we vote to become a proper country again.

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