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Edinburgh's World Heritage status 'threatened' by Hoskins' scheme

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Gareth Hoskins Architects plans to convert an empty Edinburgh landmark into a hotel have come under fire from Unesco

According to the global heritage watchdog, the controversial plans which will see the historic Royal High School on Calton Hill converted into a 160-room luxury hotel could threaten the city’s World Heritage Status.

Last night (23 February), heritage officials including Unesco advisor Susan Denyer held a meeting in the city to discuss the £55 million scheme.

Gareth Hoskins Architects won the project to redevelop Thomas Hamilton’s grade A-category Classical building, described as Scotland’s ‘greatest Neoclassical monument’, five years ago but the recently revealed plans have come under fire from heritage groups concerned about their effect on the historic building.

According to reports in the local press, Denyer said at the meeting: ‘Do [these plans] deliver social, cultural, as well as economic benefits? And do they support and strengthen the outstanding universal value [of the city]? In my view, the answer to all of these is no.

‘This is what might be called a rather single-focused plan which is being put forward, which delivers economic benefit – but not the wider benefits that are needed.’

The plans for the 1829 masterpiece, which are backed by developers Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Group, went on public display at the beginning of the month, and a planning application is yet to be submitted for the scheme.

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David Orr, Urbanist Group
‘We are currently in a consultation process and are engaging with the public by way of exhibitions and online feedback.

‘It is the latest stage in a public process initiated by the City of Edinburgh Council after many years of suggested projects failing to attract funding. We have secured funding and following ratification in April 2014 and in line with our obligations, we are bringing forward our proposals to ensure the restoration of this important building, giving it a sustainable future that delivers wider benefits for the Calton Hill area and the city of Edinburgh.

‘There has been a wide range of views expressed from the questionnaires filled in from the first exhibition and we are going to ensure that this feedback is reflected in the next exhibition, to be held on the 5 and 6 March at the old Royal High School. Whilst the views expressed so far are overwhelmingly supportive, we recognise that less positive views have also been expressed and we will faithfully ensure transparency on feedback before the planning application is submitted. We want to ensure the public has every chance to comment on our proposals to sensitively restore Hamilton’s masterpiece.

‘We would ask anyone who missed the first event to ensure they come along in March to further understand the vision behind the plans. As with the first exhibitions we will be there over the two days to explain our proposals as they have developed.’

 

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