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Today, we will report the Development Management Subcommittee (DMS) hearing on a revised proposal for the old Royal High School on Regent Road (Ref. 17/00588/FUL; 17/00587/LBC). 

Developers Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Group seek planning consent for: 

Change of Use, Alterations to + Restoration of Principal Former Royal High School Buildings/Pavilions (Original Thomas Hamilton-designed school buildings). Demolition of ancillary buidings including former Gymnasium Block/Lodge, New Build Development, New/Improved vehicular, service/pedestrian accesses. Landscaping/Parking/Public Realm + other works to create a world class Hotel of International Standing with associated Uses (including publicly accessible bars (Public House) + Restaurants Class 3.

If you’d like to examine any of the 3,003 background documents, or the 3,492 comments about the proposal … good luck to you. Here is the link.

Unfortunately, this is about as far you’ll probably get. The Council Planning Portal is overwhelmed by the weight of data and in our experience will string you along for 5 minutes before choking on any request to dig deeper.

Today’s Spurtle coverage

Will proceed on this webpage in a series of fits and starts as we struggle to accurately summarise what’s been said without landing ourselves in expensive hot water. Expect regular updates and occasional grovelling revisions throughout the day.

Attached at the foot of this page is the hearing’s agenda. Follow this link for today's meeting papers, including the officials’ report recommending planning permission be refused. Below are the most critical sections, which we presume developers will contest fiercely.

The meeting will begin at 10am with presentations by Chief officers. Presentations by the New Town & Broughton Community Council and other parties will follow. Next come presentations by ward councillors, then by the applicant.

Members of the DMS (Cllrs Ritchie [Convener], Booth, Ian Campbell, Child, Dixon, Graczyk, Griffiths, Mitchell, Mowat, Osler and Staniforth) will then debate and come to a decision. 

Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

10.00am: Cllr Ritchie – welcomes all to hearing. Reminds new DMS members that although an important occasion, 'This is just another planning decision'.

10.01am: Clllrs Child and Ritchie – declare interest owing to involvement with Edinburgh World Heritage.

10.05am: Official (John Inman) reminds DMS members:

1. CEC’s financial interest in the site is not material.

2. Differences between this proposal and the previous one by Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Group are not material.

3. The approved scheme for a music school IS material when considering impact, but this is not a choice between music school and hotel scheme. Perfectly OK to approve both.

4. If DMS grants planning consent, the case will be referred to Ministers owing to Historic Environment Scotland’s earlier objections.

10.10am: Official (Carla Parkes) summarises proposals and Report findings.

Problems with negative impact on setting of Hamilton building, lodge and gymnasium, St Andrew's House, skyline viewed from Waterloo Place, National Monument, Nelson Monument. Negative impact on New Town Conservation Area and views from Old Town Conservation Area. Impact on protected landscapes as variously designated, and tree cover. Excessive height, scale, massing of visually dominant proposal.

Negative impact on Old and New Town World Heritage Sites: damge to relationship of existing buildings to landscape and Calton Hill monuments. Damage to cultural value of the old school in Athens of the North.

Welcome economic benefits for Edinburgh are outweighed by long-term negative impacts on city's cultural value.

Unacceptable loss of amenity (sunlight) for neighbouring property on Regent Terrace. Privacy impacts have been addressed by developer. Noise not an issue. Welcome improvements to public realm but Transport concerns over vehicle access to hotel – would need redesign but not sufficient to warrant refusal of planning permission. Unacceptable loss of parking provision. Contribution to trams would be needed. 

Benefits to economy and tourism are outweighed by 'very significant', 'permanent and irreversible' 'adverse impacts' of 'sophisticated' but 'too great' development.

10.50am: Official (not introduced) summarises proposals and Report findings on Listed Building Consent

Proposed extensions (replacements for gymnasium, classroom block, luncheon block) have significant  (height/footprint) negative impact on hugely important (history, architecture, culture) Thomas Hamilton Building. Extensions would dominate and disrespect Hamilton Building, despite attempts to mitigate size by recessing, to an unacceptable extent. Extensions encroach on sense of space around Hamilton Building; negative cumulative impact on rear elevation. CEC accepts proposed alterations to create rear entrances and improve circulation. Light touch on internal fabric is acceptable.

Another option for beneficial use of site with less impact exists in form of consented music school proposal. Financial assessment suggests educational investment is viable alternative to hotel option.

Damage to site is not outweighed by any economic benefit of hotel proposal.

Setting and 'sculptural isolation' in natural landscape would be damaged by hotel proposal.

Proposed removal of lodge, gymnasium, luncheon block and classroom block: demolition of buildings to the east is OK, but demolition of gymnasium and lodge does not meet requirements of a designated conservation-based tests and is unacceptable. Demolition of lodge is not essential.

Proposed hotel's economic benefits are not at a regional or national level. There are other sites which could be appropriate for such a use. 

Proposed extensions would damage architectural quality, integrity, and special character of the site. Therefore recommend refusal.

11.10am Councillors' questions

1) Alex Staniforth: Were developers were informed about Council officials' misgivings. Answer – yes.

2) Lewis Ritchie: Can you justify economic assessment as not of regional or national significance. Answer - Yes. And this is not only possible site.

3) Joanna Mowat: Transport's road safety assessment – did road-safety audit take into account increased traffic caused by diversions around Leith Street and partial closure of Leith Walk? Answer – [No immediate response. Informed official later answers that temporary increases during works were not factored in.]

4) Joanna Mowat: Demand for Edinburgh bed nights identified in 2012 has been exceeded. Has this been considered? Answer – yes.

5) Hal Osler: Skyline photo impressions showed no reflected sunlight from glass and copper cladding. Would this occur? Answer – In some conditions there would be a lot of reflected artificial light which is not apparent in the visuals. Daylight would not bounce off dull patinated copper.

6) Lewis Ritchie: Will prepatinated copper change in colour? Appears to have discoloured since first installed onsite. Answer – Ask the applicant.

 11.21am Meeting suspened for cups of tea and relief of bladders.

11.35am: Meeting resumes. Alison Johnstone, MSP presentation.

Experts say proposal does not preserve and promote this special site, contrary to claims by recent developer David Orr in Evening News. Overwhelming local concern. Damage to setting. In practice, public will not be popping in to enjoy luxury hotel. Too much building proposed. Economic case is poor. Festival and Fringe and tourism are already thriving. No great demand for luxury hotels. Airport claims are by a private and self-interested company. Edinburgh must have a vision for kind of city it aspires to be. DMS members are place-making custodians of Edinburgh's future – accept officers' expert recommendation and refuse proposal.

11.45am: Steven Robb, Historic Environment Scotland

Our advice has not been heeded on this new proposal. We don't object to hotel use or internal changes. We object to excessive scale of new extensions. Bulk has increased, enveloping and dwarfing the listed building. Significant adverse impact on World Heritage Site. Adverse impact on special interest and landscape setting. Negative impact of demolishing ancillary buildings. Extensions would enclose and overwhelm listed building. Contrary to developers' claim, this is not the only commercially viable use for this site. Great and irreparable damage to building of international significance. Less harmful alternative uses exist.

Lewis Ritchie to SR: 'Hotel of this scale can't be delivered without irreparable harm'. Are you prejudging? Architecturally impossible. Answer: We're not against the principle of a hotel. We're against a hotel of this magnitude. Massing and scale of extensions would destroy primacy of Hamilton Building.

Lewis Ritchie to AJ: Does Scotland and Edinburgh need a hotel asset of this type? Answer: Could have such a hotel but not here. Other appropriate sites exist elsewhere. Edinburgh has serious economic problems, but an alternative consent [music school] already exists.

Lewis Ritchie to AJ: How does this proposal compare to others in your experience? Answer: Has galvanised the community and organisations. Consensus against. 

Hal Osler to AJ: Any correspondence to you in favour of proposal? Answer: No.

11.55am: Adam Wilkinson (Edinburgh World Heritage)

Summarises role of EWH. Developers have not discussed current proposal despite EWH's request to do so. (Previous proposals involved a lot of consultation between 2010–15. Developer rejected EWH suggestions for less intensive development and practical alternatives.) Developers hostile to any criticism. We formally object to negative impact on Edinburgh World Heritage Site. Integration with landscape removed by proposal; Greek revival building to be dominated: Views and panoramas impacted; Coherent entity of old Royal High School site disrupted. Negative impact on cultural ideal. Proposals would be wholly negative. (1) Fully funded, viable alternative with planning and listed building consent. No need for hotel. (2) World Heritage status would be threatened as in Liverpool and Vienna.

Noon: Cliff Hague (Cockburn Association)

Will focus on economic case. Urges DMS to be cautious. Economic impact is properly judged by experts using net effect not gross effect. Developers have not taken this approach. If no luxury hotel, visitors would still come to Edinburgh and stay elsewhere. Economic benefit exaggerated by developer. Construction costs may have been underestimated by developer with impacts on viability and future use of hotel. Job estimates on the high side, so are daily room rates. What happens if you can't fill rooms at these rates? Luxury hotels are a risky business. Number of hotel bedrooms is already sufficient to meet projected demand. Developers' optimism and risk-taking is fair enough, but real problems in very volatile national and internation times. Plea to DMS: Stick with your policies, respect your officials' findings, don't take risks. 'Keep Edinburgh the Athens of the North, don't make it the North of Athens.'

12.06pm (Alastair Disley, Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland)

Loss of symmetry. Excessive height. Wrong materials. Disruption of views and 'grand vista'. Loss of introductory and welcoming gatehouse in favour of dark, narrow alley to the North. Eastern gymnasium block (respectful transition) lost. New external corridors block symmetrical entrance elevation; if these are vital, then hotel is wrong use for this site. Historical and political symbolism of this site for Edinburgh and Scotland would be badly compromised pandering to a fickle elite hotel clientele.

Cllr Mitchell to AW: What's happening in Liverpool and Vienna? Answer: Only WH Sites in developed countries in danger of losing WH status. Liverpool waterfront developments are being pushed through despite UNESCO's clear criticism and warning shot. In Vienna, Ringstrasse site for large new development disrupt city-centre quality.

Cllr Osler to AW: Any examples of positive engagement with developers? Answer: Calton Rd, where we worked with CEC and developer to find satisfactory alternative.

Cllr Ritchie to CH: Surely every business entails risk? Answer: Luxury hotel is excessively risky. Planning system must weigh case against established local and national planning policies. 

Cllr Mowat to CH: [Asks question Spurtle did not hear or understand and which CH said he didn't have the figures for to hand, but suspected would not be substantially different to figures already presented. Something about GVA difference.] Answer to Child: Don't send out message that CEC values hotel over other values in Edinburgh.

Cllr Osler to CH: We have to fill empty buildings. Your thoughts? Answer: We already have a viable alternative use for this building. Follow strong messages on planning policy.

Cllr Staniforth: Developers projected construction costs too low and occupancy rates too optimistic. Would it create economic growth? Answer: Possibly, but at what cost and to what good? A lot of uncertainty out there, but what, for example, if Chinese tourism is affected by economic downturn or terrorism? Deleterious impact on building and setting.

Cllr Ritchie to AD: Do you think a hotel on this scale can be delivered? Answer: Not without serious deleterious impact.

Cllr Mitchell to CH: What about risks of a fee-paying school? Answer: Life is risky, certainly. But international market volatility is greater than demographic educational volatility. Record of upmarket hotels in Edinburgh failing. Hotel failures occur suddenly, whereas school probems occur over longer time in which business model can be adjusted in measured way. AD: School proposal has a donor, not investors seeking quick return.

12.33pm Meeting suspended for waterworks essential maintenance.

12.40pm: New Town & Broughton Community Council (Richard Price)

Commend officers' report. Participated in consultations. Keen to be involved in better protection of World Heritage Site. Residents' opinions count - most are against hotel plan. Planning policies must be adhered to. NTBCC thinks quantum of development without negative impact is less than that proposed. We strongly support officers' recommendations to refuse permission. Send message that further appeals would not be in public interest.

12.50pm: Regent, Royal and Carlton Terrace Association (Carol Nimmo)

Object as neighbours, residents, citizens of Edinburgh and Scotland. Involved for past 8 years. Object to 24/7 servicing across public pavement, overshadowing, domination and loss of Hamilton Building and ruination of views and cityscape. Not the unique boutique hotel originally promised. Clear and present danger to building, site and Edinburgh. Popular acclamation for music school alternative preserves ethos of education and public gain and is more sensitive to site. Yet hotel scheme continues. We call for it to be rejected. Public bodies and community bodies give sound reasons for rejecting it. IPSOS Mori research scientifically shows massive support for music school over hotel. Not just the heritage lobby, but the people of Scotland. Desperate lobbying by developer, baseless and negative comments. Royal High School Preservation Trust and fully funded music school would hand site back to the City of Edinburgh. Great and long-term benefits to the city.

Cllr Riitchie reminds DMS members: This is not a choice between rival schemes. Previous proposal is not material

Cllr Staniforth to CN: How was poll conducted? How many people were consulted where?  CN: Transparent methodology. IPSOS Mori very respected. Conducted in Edinburgh. 505 completed interviews, face to face. 

1.02pm: Meeting adjourns for 'a wee lunch'.

1.50pm: Gordon Dewar (Chair, Edinburgh Airport): Here in private capacity because passionate about tourism opportunities in beloved Edinburgh. Lack of top-end capacity is a key constraint for city. Drives  more spend, employment benefits and ancillary expenditure than standard hotels. East End of Princes St is untapped potential. Space for events. Underused asset. Potential refusal would discourage other investors not just in tourism. For Council to refuse own project would suggest Edinburgh is risky and unwelcoming to developers.

Cllr Stanisforth: How do you consider the risks to World Heritage Status? Answer:  From layman's view, impact is low. Huge benefits. Not qualified to comment on architecture. Need an active use for the building.

Cllr Osler: Which message has more weight: individuals against or developers for? Answer: Those who write in are biased. Many thousands who are supportive don't feel incentivised to write in. Should look at it as 'overall positive opportunity'. Very dangerous to suggest growth, tourism or development is bad.

Cllr Mowat: How much top-end hotel capacity do we need? Answer: Not qualified to say. But there's not enough. Cllr Mowat: Figures say there's already enough. Need more 3-star accommodation not 5-star. Answer: Those figures no longer relevant. Double-digit growth means we need more.

Cllr Ritchie: Cliff Hague says top-end hotel market is risky. Answer: Tourism is fastest growing sector in Edinburgh. Huge growth in inbound customers at Airport. Cllr Ritchie: So people are not coming to Edinburgh because not enough top-end hotels? Answer: Definitely short of capacity. Can't get a room. Middle-East market, for example, will only go to 6-star hotels. Rosewood (hotel chain) would sell Edinburgh as much as Edinburgh would sell Rosewood.

2.05pm: Cllr Doran: Important building across Edinburgh not just city centre. Huge number of objections among my constituents. No letters or messages of support. Development proposal is insensitive and dominating. Wrong design, wrong materials. Would be changed out of all recognition. We must prove we listen to People of Edinburgh. They acknowlede need to revive building, but not with this design. Refuse this application!

2.07pm: Cllr Rankin: Compelling reasons already given by officials, and does not guarantee public access to events. City-centre residents, associations, other bodies, and constituents have all been opposed. Unanimous fear from all walks of life in seeing Edinburgh damaged. Council must not be seen to be unduly favouring commercial concerns over those of local residents.

2.10pm: Cllr Miller: Mailbag is extraordinarily and unanimously against the proposal. Mr Dewar's comments that local residents are against business is not true. Emotional connection to much loved city-centre built environment. Massive extensions would spoil site at connection of Old and New Town. Council right about wanting new lease of life for building, and boutique arts hotel originally seemed a good idea. This proposal is too big for this site. Refuse. Take a fresh look. Find respectful alternative use. Planning officers are spot-on about reasons to refuse.

Cllr Osler: Has nobody spoken to you positively about the proposal? Answer: Miller – no. Doran – no. Don't believe people who are in favour wouldn't write in, as alleged. Have actively sought supporters and not found any. Rankin: One cannot assume anything about people who don't respond. If people don't feel strongly enough about their support to make views known, their views cannot be taken into account. Surprisingly, I have not even been approached by developer on this latest proposal.

[Missed a bit here. Will return and fill in later.]

2.20pm: David Orr (representing developers, co-investors, and hotel management partner): Massive scale of potential benefit. We got here because CEC needs to revive the building after failure of previous schemes. We sensitively reflect the legacy of Thomas Hamilton. We are astonished not to have received one meeting with officials – therefore not surprised their judgements are seriously flawed. 'Gross misrepresentation' by Edinburgh World Heritage of a slide  (photoshop manipulation) shown at AHSS meeting has skewed public opinion. Economic arguments are wrong and biased. Historic Environment Scotland Test is contrived – we pass it. Set aside your preconceptions and listen to the modest credibility of a rational proposal promising huge benefits.

2.25pm: Gordon Gibb (Hoskins Architects): Have responded to reasons for previous proposal's rejection (too big). Respect and acknowledge Hamilton masterpiece with centrality of a raised, windowless temple. None of the ancillary buildings add value or quality to the Hamilton Building. Symmetrical development on either side is valid and positive for setting. Our plan does not mimic the Hamilton Building. Sensitively positioned wings allow views. Visualisations in accordance with professional guidance principles. Development also respects topography.

2.35pm: Andrew ??: Council reports don't give adequate importance to reduction in size of development. New ground broken on understanding Hamilton's intentions; keeps retaining wall and belvedere. Identifies litter of subsequent building. Main historic buildings and interiors are not unaltered or unimportant. We take the setting very seriously indeed. Council report ignores meticulous and careful attention to site's detail. Selective and misleading use of images. Astonished and disappointed to hear how photos have been manipulated. View from Waterloo Place is delayed, not lost or impaired. Does not put at risk World Heritage status. Questionable way in which Edinburgh Council approaches demolition of listed structures – no other Scottish local authority does it like this. Skewed and unbalanced reports. Applicants have been badly treated.

2.45pm: Gary Mapp (planning consultant): Even though scheme is reduced, there are now more Council reasons for refusing – very surprising. Very careful approach. Selective and biased review in Council officers' response. Criticism of very small number of developers' photo-montages, when vast majority were good. Disappointing lack of reference to scale of revisions to previous proposal. Planning report dismisses importance or detail  of economic argument and arts offer which is integral to plan. Regional and international importance. Rosewood would not consider alternative sites in Edinburgh. Huge annual economic benefit to the city. Access for public guaranteed. Improved local amenity. Improved safety in the area. Report does not attach weight to public consultation because immaterial in planning terms. Public opinion is important. Developers were invited by Council to comment on music-school scheme. It has no compelling merit and does not present a business plan. Claimed financial viability is unsupported and without foundation. If you refuse, building will probably remain empty and deteriorate. Support the application!

2.50pm: David Orr: Born in Edinburgh, care about its past, present and future. Edinburgh needs to be nurturing and relevant to all. I helped secure Harvey Nichols for this city. This hotel will be a great conservation-led solution. Huge challenge – school already closed for nearly 50 years. Edinburgh can move into top tier of hotel destinations with Rosewood. Rosewood a great and fair employer offering good money and training. Benefit to public purse. (Some of those against it already do just fine.) Our solution has been demonstrated to be entirely acceptable. Unlike others, we have not falsified images. [PUBLIC BOO.] This is the only deliverable proposal based on a lot of deep thought in difficult circumstances.

Cllr Campbell: Sensitive, cutting-edge design, you claim. But why no consutation cooperation with other stakeholders. Answer (GG): Revised proposal based on earlier consultations and positive responses made during first proposal. DO: NTBCC said our presentation was useful and civil. We did meet previous contacts and new ones in run-up to revised proposal. Mystified by lack of engagement from CEC officials.

Cllr Osler: Am concerned about light reflection and amount of glass. Answer (GG): Photo montages are accurate. There is reflection, as there should be, but we're using matt, dull-down copper material which doesn't relect with windows recessed behind.

Cllr Ritchie: Comment on discoloured sample material? Answer (GG): Sample matches sheenless expectation. Cllr Ritchie: Is it Forth Rail Bridge red, as I saw it yesterday, or dark brown, prepatinated copper as you describe it? GG: There is some variation.

Cllr Staniforth: We need acceptable not excessive tourism. Why has your proposal raised such antipathy among the public. DO: Problematic, misleading comments have swayed argument. All cities must reconcile local and tourism needs. This scheme offers arts events and local employment for local people, who will feel part of this. Rosewood chosen carefully.

Cllr Staniforth: Why are your images more accurate than opponents? GG: Very accurately formulated and measurable photo, based on 3D model. Opponents shows 2D architectural model which no-one can ever experience in reality. DO: Amazed that source of this image is Edinburgh World Heritage. Shocking. Designed to mislead. Unapologetic response to letter of complaint. Cllr Ritchie: Irrelevant because you haven't submitted that correspondence to this committee.

Cllr Mitchell: Publically accessible bars are not the same as financially affordable to the public. DO: Rosewood have low threshold for financial accessibility in bars.

Cllr Mowat: Transport patterns, some temporary, some long-term will change in Edinburgh. What baseline did you use? Answer: [Did not understand first response. DO: Planning for long-term solution.

Cllr Mowat: How will your very special guests arrive given likely increased business of the street? DO: Hopefully more of them will walk and enjoy fantastic area. Rest by car, taxi, tram. Drop-off at the rear. 

Cllr Key: How come you had dialogue but no communication? Do you have different views on the rules? Answer: CEC's 'policy guidance' without prior chance of discussion was presented halfway through process. Prevented open discussion with officers. Council's questionable interpretation of national rules and local policy guidance. 

Cllr Osler: How will hotel be serviced? Proposal seems light on detail.  GG: Servicing from street level at SE end of site. Through an existing door. Osler: Through one door, causing queues in limited layby area. Hotel will not allow queues in front of the hotel. Servicing areas are detailed elsewhere in proposal. DO: We have massive vested interest in making sure it works well with no ill-effects for neighbours.

Cllr Burgess: Do your proposals meet requirement for development to be subservient to listed structure? Do economic benefits outweigh any negative economic impact. Answer: Relative hierarchical significance of elevations is respected. Considerable time has been spent to evaluate impact on listed building, Conservation Area and World Heritage Site. DO: This is as revolutionary as introduction here of Harvey Nichols. Helps everybody. Raises bar. Net benefit. World Heritage Status: would open up public realm as in St Andrew Square. Major benefit to heritage status. Absolutely would not erode it. Will attract people who can contribute to this city. Genuine personal involvement and concern for future of Edinburgh.

Cllr Campbell: Average price of a 6-star hotel room? DO: Don't know. It's expensive. Average daily rate is £371–£436. Premium rate. Cllr Campbell:At those rates, why does hotel have to be so big? Good profit possible from something much smaller. DO: To employ the number of people we intend to do, hotel has to be of a certain scale. Scale followed capacity of the site. Cllr Campbell: Your arguments seem to address previous committee rather than locals' views. Can't understand your business model? DO: Smaller hotel would be a gated community with less need for accessible bars. Considered, balanced and well-thought through proposal.

Cllr Osler: What is Edinburgh about this proposal? GG: This is a building designed specifically for this site: topography, history, materials, forms. Recessive not extensive. Views preserved. DO: Does not compete with or try to complete Hamilton Building. Also reflects basalt igneous rock backdrop. Something for locals to be really proud of.

Cllr Ritchie (to DO): Disappointed that 30 minutes out of 40 in your presentation has been spent criticising alternative proposal and Council officers. Please end with a more upbeat 'elevator pitch'. DO: This is an amazing vision. Let's not harness or curtail our ambition. I've found making criticisms painful but necessary during this debate. An incredible challenge which would allow us to produce something truly incredible that engages Edinburgh's wider community.

3.45pm: Short 5-minute recess for cup of tea and unburdening of tripes.

Councillors' discussion and debate

Cllr Osler to officers: Where did views seen by councillors yesterday come from? Official: From the applicant.

Cllr Key: Both sides claim dialogue but no apparent agreement. What's your impression of that discussion? Official: That is immaterial. There have been more meetings than normal at the pre-application stage. Focus on application before you, not on prior meetings. Cllr Key: Important to establish fairness. Did you do enough to ensure a smooth passage? Official: Impossible to answer that question.

Cllr Campbell: Officers' reports have been called into question. Cllr Ritchie: This Committee must have absolute faith in its officers. Our statutory duty is to weigh the case not to look at accusations about process. Focus on policy matters.

Cllr Osler: Please clarify demolition of gatehouse. Official: This is a side issue. Alterations to main building must come first, but gatehouse is Category A-listed.

Cllr Ritchie: Important proposal for important building on important site. Must carefully consider economic development of Edinburgh as well as built heritage. Two constraints: (1) impact on site and listed buildings; (2) economic benefits. I am convinced that there would be economic benefits, but not sure how large. I think this proposal is one of the most abhorrent and ugly I have seen, even if better than previous one. Edinburgh would not forgive us for giving consent. Not of the right calibre. I say this reluctantly. This is not the right proposal. Universally reviled. Could not approve in all conscience. [PUBLIC APPLAUSE]

Cllr Griffiths: This design is horrible and in wrong setting. Must be a better solution possible. Cannot vote for it.

Cllr Mitchell: I agree. Could not possibly support. Site visit has confirmed opinion.

Cllr Osler: Thank you to developers for prompting debate. Must find uses for empty buildings. Deeply concerned by this proposal. Developers should think about issues raised.

Cllr Mowat: At May election, this was No. 1 issue on the doorstep across City Centre Ward. Hugely significant decision. Our forefathers chose education in temple form as priority for the city. Listed building case could never be justified in this proposal. Very defensive case by developer – What do you have to hide? Allegedly falsified image has only ever been presented to councillors by the developer. Form and function of hotel are not subservient to Hamilton building. Must listen to local, citywide, national and international concerns. Reject this proposal.

Cllr Campbell: Developers have missed opportunity to scale proposal appropriately. Chasing one vote, forgot the city and nation. They could have brought a serviceable plan. Very disappointed at that failure. Cannot support.

Cllr Staniforth: This is a Conservation Area. What are we conserving? Compare with the Balmoral Hotel. That building fits central, urban area. Calton Hill is sparse. This revised plan proposes building density, not rustic setting. Will vote against.

Cllr Burgess: Our job is to consider material planning grounds. Developers can't prove their plans aren't contrary to these. Gravely concerned at threat to World Heritage status. City's global status would suffer. Might be some economic benefit, but also very possible detrimental impact on this city. This hotel on this scale need not be built here. Our duty is to vote against.

Cllr Key: I have no doubt that this proposal would bring in new tourists and would be an economic benefit. But balance against design aspects. 'Good enough is not good enough for Edinburgh.' Size, massing, scale of wings are unacceptable.

Cllr Child: I think development would deter visitors who would not want to see these excrescences. Not subservient. Does not respect what people come to see. A potential fly in the ointment of our fantastic city. Citizens of Edinburgh don't want it because it harms Edinburgh's unique value. Wrong site for a hotel. Impossible to make it stack up economically.

Cllr Mitchell: Have emails from across the country against the proposal.

4.20pm: Cllr Ritchie proposes refusal on both applications. Full planning permission and listed building consent are unanimously rejected by councillors.



Following the DMs’s decision this afternoon, media statements have been issued on behalf of the Royal High School Preservation Trust and St Mary’s Music School. We reproduce them below in full and unedited. 

William Gray Muir (above-left), Chair of the RHSPT said: 

‘We are very pleased to note the unanimous rejection of this application, embracing Scotland’s full political spectrum. It is difficult to disagree with the committee Convenor’s description of the proposal as ‘universally reviled’.  Not one of the many civic representatives who spoke today had received a single comment in favour of this scheme. 

‘The applicants angrily attacked all of the parties who disagreed with them, and showed an alarming lack of respect for the process, the consultees and the people of Edinburgh. Well, the people of Edinburgh and their appointed representatives have given their unequivocal verdict. The Scottish Government will surely have taken note.  

‘Let’s hope the development consortium shows some sense of dignity and bow out quickly, letting the City pursue a much brighter future for this wonderful building.   The Royal High School Preservation Trust looks forward to pursuing its exciting, positive vision for the building as soon as the way is clear.’ 

Dr Kenneth Taylor (above-right), Headteacher at St Mary’s Music School, said: 

‘The school has always been conscious that the Royal High School Preservation Trust’s proposal to move St Mary’s Music School to the former Royal High School building would succeed only if the local authority opted to reject planning approval for an alternative commercial proposal for the site. 

‘We are delighted that councillors have taken that decision today. RHSPT’s proposal, which has already been granted planning approval, provides a far closer match with the architectural and cultural significance of the unique site. 

‘St Mary’s Music School is not just a school for Edinburgh, but one for the whole of Scotland with our pupils coming from across the nation and beyond, and all taken on musical ability regardless of personal circumstances. We want to build on our music and academic success. The move to the former Royal High School provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a cultural hub which will bring great benefits not only for Edinburgh but for the benefit of aspiring young musicians throughout Scotland.  

‘Our sincere hope now is that a way can be found that allows the plans for a hotel development to be put to rest quickly so that the next chapter for the site as a seat of education and performance is not delayed. The weight of public opinion has fallen in favour of our plans in large part because everyone associated with the project has worked hard to demonstrate their excellence beyond doubt. There seems little advantage to anyone in repeating the same arguments through a protracted appeal process. Let us move on with making our vision a reality.’