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Council to vote on Richard Murphy’s Calton Hill rival next month

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Richard Murphy Architects’ alternative vision to regenerate Edinburgh’s landmark Royal High School is to be considered by the City Council next month

The scheme, drawn up with conservation specialist Simpson & Brown, proposes transforming the Grade A-listed Thomas Hamilton-designed building into a new home for St Mary’s Music School.

The proposals have been billed as a ‘viable alternative’ to Hoskins Architects’ controversial £75 million hotel redevelopment plans for the disused 1829 masterpiece overlooking the Scottish capital which were thrown out last December.

A report by council planners said they feared the proposals would cause ’permanent and irreversible damage’ to the city’s skyline. The plans were also branded as ’inappropriate and insensitive’ by heritage group SAVE.

Project backers Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group subsequently lodged appeals against both the refusal of planning and listing building consents. A decision on whether the developer has been successful has not yet been announced.

Murphy’s rival scheme would create a new 300-seat concert hall in the former debating chamber, with a new foyer beneath, and a publicly-accessible garden. It is being backed by the Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT).

William Gray Muir, chair of The Royal High School Preservation Trust, said: ’The Trust’s plans have remained tightly focused on both preserving this exceptional building while bringing forward progressive, innovative designs to give it a modern and sustainable use, both for pupils studying at St Mary’s and for members of the public wanting to enjoy its new concert space and public gardens.’

Duddingston House Properties won a council-led competition to transform the Neoclassical building back in 2010, however the established contract is subject to planning. 

The City of Edinburgh Council is likely to consider Murphy’s alternate proposals and publish a report sometime in August. 

The Royal High School has not been in public use since 1968. Built on Calton Hill in 1829 it is one of Edinburgh’s most imposing landmarks. A number of proposals for the school have fallen by the wayside including plans to move the Scottish Assembly into the building in the 1970s and a more recent scheme for a £20 million National Photography Centre.

Old Royal High School

Old Royal High School

Edinburgh’s old Royal High School

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