Monday, 20 March 2017

Save the Royal High School

Old Royal High

One of the finest buildings in Edinburgh - the former Royal High School - is under threat to be developed into an exclusive 5 star hotel.

The Royal High School is one of the finest examples of the Greek Revival style and is of international importance.

The economic merits of the proposed scheme can be argued over. However, the demolition of several listed buildings to make room for huge hotel buildings made of materials in an architectural style that does not fit into the surroundings will cause irreversible damage to the conservation area.

The Royal High School occupies a very prominent location that can be seen from many vantage points in the city. The proposed new builds will dwarf and crowd the main building carefully designed by Thomas Hamilton to fit the landscape and form the cityscape. Should the proposed hotel development go ahead, one of the most classic views of Edinburgh will get permanently and irreversibly spoilt.

The Royal High School is situated in a conservation area and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The proposed development will adversely affect the conservation area and, by extension, the World Heritage Site. It will also damage the city's international reputation as an architectural gem and as the iconic Athens of the North.

Architectural and aesthetic damage aside, there is the second, equally important question over whether a public building dedicated to learning should be turned into an exclusive commercial space. Edinburgh has plenty of hotels in central locations and there is scope to develop less important sites.

Clearly, a new purpose needs to be found for the building. I whole heartedly support the competing proposal to make the Royal High School the new home of the St Mary's Music School. I do realise this plan also requires some demolition. However, the scale of the music school development is smaller and does not alter the general design of the site. Furthermore, housing a school maintains the spirit of the building and provides a new civic purpose for one of the finest buildings in Edinburgh.

I hope the planning process and everyone else involved in the decision making takes these concerns into consideration so that future generations both locals and visitors can enjoy the magnificent view and be taught inside this great building.

There is still some time to object to the proposed hotel development. More details can be found on the Save the Royal High School page.

Old Royal High School