Hotel scheme not all bad

Friday, 2 October 2015

Dear Spurtle 

I've followed with interest your coverage of the proposal to convert the former Royal High School (RHS) to a luxury hotel. 

Although I have issues with some aspects of the new design, I broadly support the scheme. A lot of people I know locally share this view but I think our side of the argument perhaps doesn't feel the need to make such a noise on social media, etc, and so the opposition tend to dominate the debate! 

In the interests of balance, I wanted to point out the report from Architecture & Design Scotland (A+DS) buried in the additional material on the planning portal. [See Breaking news, 22.9.15] Although by no means an unequivocal endorsement of the project, it is quite supportive and would provide an interesting counterpoint to the negative views you've shared from AHSS and others. 

I also think it would be fascinating if you could explore some of the possible outcomes if the development is thrown out by the planners. I think there is a potentially dangerous fiction developing, and actively fostered (understandably) by those opposed to the hotel, that if the plan is refused then the Royal High School Preservation Trust will simply step in and proceed with their alternative and admirable scheme to create the music school.

I'm no legal expert but it seems to me that having apparently shown no interest in the building at the time of the original competition, the RHSPT now risk being seen as trying to unduly influence the Council's decision from the sidelines. As Edinburgh Evening News columnist John McLellan has written on a couple of occasions, refusing the hotel scheme will result in an unholy mess for all involved, with a protracted legal action almost certainly being taken against the Council, leading to further years of the RHS deteriorating.

On a side note, I would also be very interested to know whether, if the hotel is approved, the Dunard Fund will still support the relocation of St Mary's Music School? Presumably the school would still be looking to expand and move elsewhere in the city, and I'd imagine there are quite a few historic buildings, albeit less high-profile than the RHS, which would potentially benefit from re-use and restoration.

William Davies

(Penicuik, formerly of Hopetoun Crescent)