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Conservationists 'ignored' over Hoskins' Calton Hill plans

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The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust claims its advice has been ignored by the Hoskins Architects-led design team working on proposals for the city’s unused Royal High School on Calton Hill

Earlier this week (2 September) the practice submitted plans to convert Thomas Hamilton’s 1829 masterpiece into a 147-room hotel, having ‘fundamentally’ revised its original concept.

According to the firm’s founder Gareth Hoskins, the new design with its pair of ‘organic’ wings splaying away from the grade A-listed Classical building was informed by extensive consultation.

However Adam Wilkinson of the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust said his and the conservation charity’s fears about the proposals to develop the western edge of the former school site - and their potential impact on the World Heritage Site - had not been heard.

He said: ‘The clear and consistent advice [we gave] the development team over a number of months has been ignored, which is a matter of deep regret.’

Wilkinson added: ‘Hamilton’s Royal High School was designed in such a way that in views from the west one only sees the dramatic landscape of Calton Hill, Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags, giving an impression of the countryside in the heart of the city – one of the elements that makes Edinburgh such a special place.’

The latest plans have also been criticised by heritage campaigner and conservationist David Black, who is not convinced by the revisions. He said: ‘If this is meant to placate the critics, it won’t work. We seem to have moved from Mickey Mouse ears additions to Flopsy and Mopsy bolt-ons.

‘The developer provides a helicopter’s eye view, but the impact that matters is the one from street level, where the looming presence of the west extension will wreck the aspect of Calton Hill from Princes Street, and of course the grass roofs will be invisible.’

Charlie Sutherland of Sutherland Hussey Harris was equally unimpressed by the scheme .He told the AJ: ‘I’ve just seen the revised proposal for Calton Hill. Deary me. It’s truly awful.

‘Surely the City of Edinburgh are not going to countenance this! or maybe these cow pats can join the Golden Turd down the road.’

First revealed back in February, the £75 million project for developers Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist will house a new hotel run by Rosewood Hotels and Resorts.

Responding to the criticism a spokesman for Hoskins Architects said: ‘We have listened to a wide range of views. This has been acknowledged by a number of key consultees and is evident in the revised designs that we have submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council.

‘We recognise that there are differing opinions on this specific issue.’

If the plans are approved, the new hotel could open its doors in 2017.   

Comments:

Marion Williams, director at Cockburn Association:

‘There are two levels of listening.

‘The initial plans did not respect the SSSI landscape – the design team has sought to address these in the revised plans.

‘However we maintain that a large hotel is not the right development on this site. These concerns have been ignored.

‘We will robustly object to the plans submitted.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • It's very unusual for Charlie Hussey to respond to the work of a fellow architect in such a critical way but frankly I have to agree with him, it's frankly awful and a significant step backward. As foir the other usual supsects quoted, I would not expect any other response.

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  • Surely there's a more appropriate re-use for this fine building, or is the City of Edinburgh going to the dogs, courtesy of a complacent and perhaps philistine council?
    They recently ignored the advice of their planners and approved Jestico & Whiles' 'Golden Turd' in the city centre -
    God help Edinburgh, which deserves far more respect than some architects seem prepared to acknowledge..

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