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Royal High's transformation into music school approved

Councillors previously voted against rival plans for a luxury hotel at the Edinburgh site.

Vision: An artist's impression of how the site would look.
Vision: An artist's impression of how the site would look. RHSPT / Cropped

Plans to transform an A-listed neoclassical building in Edinburgh city centre into a music school have been approved.

Ambitious proposals for the former Royal High school at the foot of Calton Hill feature three performance spaces and a 300-seat concert hall in the former debating chamber.

It would provide a new home for Scotland's only independent music school, St Mary's School, which is based on Grosvenor Crescent in Haymarket.

Councillors unanimously paved the way for the development following a meeting on Wednesday.

Planning officers had already backed the plans, which rival proposals to transform the listed Royal High building into a luxury hotel.

The £75m hotel option has already been turned down by councillors but developer Duddingston House Properties is appealing the decision.

The firm previously won a commercial bid with the council to develop on the site, which technically means that they have until 2022 to submit any new planning application.

However, the planning approval for the music school also includes an extended seven-year timescale for planning and listed building consent.

The Royal High School Preservation Trust's (RHSPT) fully-funded proposals for the music school would result in the new facilities being made available to the public as well as pupils.

Royal High: The prominent listed building is at the foot of Calton Hill.
Royal High: The prominent listed building is at the foot of Calton Hill.

Trust chairman William Gray Muir said he was "delighted" that the proposals had been approved.

He added: "The former Royal High School is pivotal to Edinburgh's World Heritage Status and our plans are designed to celebrate, conserve and enhance the site for the people of Edinburgh.

"By making it home to St Mary's Music School we also hope to reinforce musical education at the heart of the city's cultural heritage.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to transform a building at risk into a dynamic asset for students, residents, visitors to the city, educational and cultural organisations and the creative sector as a whole.

"Our plans are fully funded, they bring together world-class culture and heritage in a highly visible and meaningful way and have overwhelming support from local residents and heritage organisations concerned about preserving our UNESCO World Heritage Status. All of this can be achieved without any adverse change to the setting of the historic site."

Dr Kenneth Taylor, Headteacher at St Mary's Music School, added: "Everyone associated with the school and our supporters within the wider musical and cultural community will be hugely excited by today's good news.

"A move to the Royal High School under the Trust's plans would enable St Mary's Music School to have the performance space we have always aspired to. It will enable us to bring music lovers into the school and greatly expand our outreach activities.

"We look forward to a wonderful and unique opportunity to raise our profile on the international stage, drawing attention to the world class standard of education at St Mary's Music School, with music at the heart of everything we do."

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