Controversial plans to transform the former Royal High School in Edinburgh into a “world-class” luxury hotel to be operated by Rosewood Hotels and Resorts have been rebuffed for a second time.
Members of the City of Edinburgh’s planning committee have rejected the revised application from Urbanist Hotels and Duddingston House Properties (DHP) to develop the historic A-listed property into a 127-bedroom hotel.
A previous planning application for a 147-bedroom property was rejected by the council in December 2015.
Although the property has not been in use for nearly 50 years, opponents of the scheme said that the hotel plans were unsuitable for a Unesco World Heritage Site and council officers had recommended that the current proposals be refused.
The site has a long history of rejected planning applications. A one-time plan to turn the building into a home for the Scottish Parliament was also rejected by the council.
The revised plans submitted by Urbanist Hotels and DHP retained the key elements of the original scheme designed by Hoskins Architects, but substantially reduced the size of the new bedroom wings and the alterations to the listed centrepiece building, designed by Thomas Hamilton in 1826.
David Orr, chairman of Urbanist Hotels, said that he was disappointed by the councillors’ decision.
“It is especially disappointing and worrying that this decision was made amidst a backdrop of wilful misrepresentation and misleading campaigning by Edinburgh World Heritage and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland,” he said.
“Despite this concerted and very public campaign against our proposals, we will continue to fulfil our contractual obligation with the council to revive a building which has been allowed to slip into a state of disrepair and neglect for more than 50 years.
“We remain 100% committed to delivering this, or another scheme in line with our agreement with the council, which runs until 2022.
“We will not leave the future of such a magnificent building hanging in the balance, shrouded by uncertainty and vague promises that do not stand up to scrutiny.”
A rival scheme to turn the iconic building into a new home for St Mary’s Music School has been approved, but cannot proceed until 2022, when an agreement between the City of Edinburgh Council and the hotel developers expires. DHP and Urbanist Hotels won a competition to develop the site by 2022, seven years ago.
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