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Richard Murphy wades into Calton Hill row with rival plans

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Richard Murphy Architects has been asked to work on an alternative scheme for Edinburgh’s disused Royal High School

The architect is collaborating with conservation specialists Simpson & Brown on plans to relocate St Mary’s Music School into the A listed 1829 neoclassical Thomas Hamilton buildings on Calton Hill.

The proposals are being billed as a ‘viable alternative’ to the controverisal - and recently revised - £75 million hotel redevelopment plans submitted to Edinburgh City Council by Hoskins Architects earlier this month (AJ 02.09.15).

Project backers, the Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT), has offered to buy the hillside landmark for £1.5 million and is due to submit a detailed application for a less extensive, restoration-led scheme to the city council ‘as soon as possible’.

Developer William Gray Muir, the chairman of the trust, described the bid as genuine and ‘fully funded’. He told the AJ: ’All we are doing is saying that we are ready and willing to step in should it not be possible for [the hotel scheme] to win consent.

‘I’m not manning the barricades against the Hoskins proposals.Gareth Hoskins has been given a very difficult task. I’m a big admirer of his - but if he can’t find an answer [to making a large-scale hotel work] then nobody could’.

Speaking about his appointment to work on the rival plans, Richard Murphy said: ‘This is a wonderful site, an exceptionally important building and a delightful client and brief; what architect could not relish such a prospect? We look forward to working closely with the Trust, the School and the rest of the design team.’

Hoskins Architects revealed its ‘fundamentally’ reworked plans to convert Hamilton’s 1829 masterpiece into a 147-room hotel at the beginning of September.

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

However the scheme has come in for crticism from a number of sources, with Adam Wilkinson of the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust saying his and the conservation charity’s fears about developing the western edge of the former school site - and their potential impact on the World Heritage Site - had not been heard.

Responding to the RHSPT’s offer to buy the site ,a council spokeswoman said: ‘Old Royal High School is not on the market as the council has a legal agreement with Duddingston House Properties to lease it.

‘The site is now subject to a planning application for a hotel, which has been submitted to the council and will be considered in due course.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • It's just such a shame that architects of the stature of Gareth Hoskins - and Jestico & Whiles, with their hotel project - have got mired in such insensitive 'interventions' in the city.

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  • I agree with Robert Wakeham .Pity the architects involved in two such indefensible schemes. Has Edinburgh lost the plot?

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