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SAVE calls on city to throw out Hoskins' Calton Hill plans

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Campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage has called on Edinburgh City Council to reject Hoskins Architects’ plans to convert Edinburgh’s Royal High School into a hotel

Last month, the firm submitted a ‘fundamentally’ revised scheme in response to concerns from heritage groups about its initial proposals for a 160-room development on the Calton Hill site.

But SAVE says that the plan to build two new modern wings next to the Neoclassical landmark are ‘insensitive’ and will intrude onto views across the city.

Built between 1825-9, the RHS is the work of Thomas Hamilton, one of the leading architects of the Greek Revival.

In a letter to City of Edinburgh Council, SAVE caseworker Mike Fox said: ‘The current proposals are an inappropriate and insensitive attempt at reusing the RHS, a landmark historic building of supreme architectural importance.

‘The proposals are an inappropriate and insensitive’

‘The built form of the new hotel wings as proposed, including the materials used, will draw focus away from the RHS, and entirely disrupt Thomas Hamilton’s composition, which was conceived and constructed as a complete entity, and which retains its design integrity.’

The practice landed the job to transform the A-listed Classical building back in early 2010.

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

Meanwhile the city council today (2 October) announced that it has extended by four days the deadline for comments on the controversial planning application after its website struggled to cope with the volume of responses.

At the time of writing, there had been 1,073 comments on the planning application.

The news comes after the UK committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) announced it will visit Edinburgh to investigate the effect of recent planning decisions on world heritage assets in the city.

A team of four members of the committee is set to interview planning officials, councillors and heritage organisations in a move prompted by concerns over new development in the Scottish capital.

The body’s worries have been sparked by both concerns over the Royal High School scheme along with a decision by councillors in August to overrule a recommendation by officers and approve a hotel by Jestico + Whiles in the £850 million St James scheme (see AJ 14.08.15).

James Simpson, Scottish vice president of ICOMOS-UK told the Architects’ Journal that the report could be presented to the body’s international heritage committee, which could then, in turn voice concerns to UNESCO, which has granted World Heritage Site status to Edinburgh city centre.

Simpson, founding partner of Simpson & Brown, said: ‘The process takes a long time, and I would not wish to say there is imminent risk of Edinburgh losing its world heritage status.

‘But there is a responsibility in any historic city such as Edinburgh, and in a World heritage city in particular to try to ensure all new developments actually improve and enhance the city and do not make it worse.

‘We hope the process will sharpen the minds of planners and councillors in the city.’

The UK committee has also written to Alex Neil, the Scottish community secretary, to voice its concern over the St James hotel decision.

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, welcomed the visit by the ICOMOS team. He said: ‘Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site is the city’s greatest asset, a source of immense pride for its citizens and key to its future success – and it is only natural that other organisations are interested in how we work to look after it for the benefit of its people.’ 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Let us hope that SAVE can bring Edinburgh to their senses to stop in their tracks both of these potentially disasterous schemes.

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