Royal High School – New Appeal to the Scottish Reporter

We reported on September 3 that NTBCC was relieved (but not surprised) that the latest planning application to redevelop the former RHS as a hotel by Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Hotel group had been unanimously rejected by Edinburgh Council.

We had urged the Development Management Sub-committee to unanimously reject the latest application – reflecting both the significant and detrimental impact on the Edinburgh World heritage site and Conservation area but also to acknowledge the unprecedented public opposition to the proposal. A unanimous rejection would send a clear message that further appeals would not be in the public interest.

Our submission to the DMC on 31 August can be viewed here.

We commended the Council officers’ on their thorough, comprehensive and well-reasoned report recommending refusal of the latest application and their view was strongly supported by Historic Environment Scotland, the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, the AHSS and the three Ward Councillors amongst others as well as ourselves  and the adjacent Residents Association.


The persistent theme raised by many objectors focussed on the unique importance of this building and its setting, and the inappropriateness of the height and scale of the design, ‘too much, for too little site’ irrespective of the economic benefit that tourism to the hotel would bring.

However, we were of the opinion that it was extremely unlikely that this would be an end to the matter; and that the Royal High School would be being entirely safe from inappropriate development.

The first hotel proposal is still at the Inquiry stage with Scottish Government Reporters and was on hold (“ sisted”) until 8th September.

The developers have now given notice that they intend to appeal this latest unanimous decision and, as far as we understand, restart the appeal for the narrowly rejected original decision.

Their email to the Department of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) states :



I refer to your email of 20 July regarding the sist of the above appeal. I have been instructed to advise you of my clients intention to appeal the Council’s decision, taken on 31 August 2017, to refuse planning permission and listed building consent. We have not yet received the decision notice from the planning authority. Once that has been issued, I shall update you on likely timescales for submission of the appeal. In the meantime, we are collating the supporting documents, which were submitted with the applications, with a view to lodging them as soon as practicable.”

Our hope (and that of many others) was that the developer would realise that the hotel scheme is simply too large for this site and without a significant reduction in scale, no design would be appropriate for this iconic A listed building. This unfortunately still remains a hope.

We were somewhat surprised that Rosewood Hotels (the contracted operator) were not present at the 31 August DMC meeting and although the latest application contained a study which unsurprisingly rejected all other available sites in Edinburgh for a Rosewood Hotel, we believe that suitable alternative sites may well become available in future years. We would be supportive of Rosewood Hotels  having a presence in Edinburgh.

For the RHS, we remain supportive of finding a new, viable and sustainable use for the building, given its deteriorating condition and current lack of use. We supported the principle (but not the execution) of the City of Edinburgh Council’s efforts in developing a long term use for this important building and fervently continue to hope that the current impasse is brought to a speedy conclusion. In the meantime, St Mary’s Music School waits in the wings with full (unanimous) planning permission…………..