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Hoskins' controversial Calton Hill plans set for refusal

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Hoskins Architects revised plans to convert the historic Royal High School are set to be rejected by Edinburgh Council after planners said they would cause ’permanent and irreversible damage’ to the city’s skyline

A report to be voted on by councillors later this week is recommending refusal of the 147-room hotel scheme at the sensitive site on Calton Hill.

The application, which was submitted in September, followed a fundamental redesigned of the initial proposals in response to an outcry by heritage groups (AJ 06.02.15).

However, the City’s planners remain unconvinced by the scale of the proposed scheme, reporting that: ‘The architecture is clearly a sophisticated response to the site’s sensitive context.

‘While it does mitigate, as best it can, the visual impact of the quantity of development proposed, this mitigation is insufficient to overcome the significant adverse impacts that the building would have on the historic built and landscape environment.

‘Put simply, too much building is proposed.’

Originally conceived as a ‘referential’ colonnaded addition to the Neo-classical former school, the reworked design features two ‘organic’ wings splaying away from Thomas Hamilton’s unused 1829 masterpiece.

But the revisions have failed to win over heritage bodies, with Historic Scotland stating that both wings would ‘by their height, scale and massing, dominate and overwhelm the listed building challenging its primacy on the site’.

The organisation added: ‘The proposals would, if implemented, diminish significantly the building’s status as an internationally-acclaimed exemplar of Greek Revival architecture.’

Conservation group Edinburgh World Heritage said: ‘The proposals will in effect both diminish the building and remove its setting, placing buildings up to six stories sitting on a raised plinth on either side. It in effect turns Hamilton’s building into an object, rather than an integrated part of an historic urban landscape.’

The planners agreed, saying that the development would cause ‘permanent and irreversible damage’ to the character and setting of nearby listed buildings, the New Town Conservation Area, the designed landscape of Calton Hill and the World Heritage site.

However, Hoskins may be holding onto some hope. In August Jestico + Whiles won planning for a controversial hotel within the £850 million Edinburgh St James scheme after councillors ignored the recommendation of officers to refuse it.

Architects’ Journal contacted Hoskins for a comment but none had been forthcoming at the time of publication.

However, developer Duddingston House Properties said it had recently commissioned pollsters to interview 5,000 people in the city, of whom 92 per cent approved of the latest designs



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Readers' comments (1)

  • Two architects of proven ability fouling Edinburgh with inappropriate dollops of 'developer dung' and if the city councillors (and the citizens, if DHP's pollsters are to be believed) have taken leave of their senses and ignore the counsel of their own planners then we're back to those inglorious days of selfish contempt for this wonderful city in the last century - when the University, amongst others, did serious harm to the urban fabric with utter disregard for any but their own narrow interests. Shame on the lot of them.

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