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Legal wrangle may hold up project

Council backs music school plan for Royal High

Music schoolOne of Edinburgh’s most famous and long-empty buildings moved closer to finding a new role after city councillors backed plans for a music school.

The unanimous decision to approve conversion of the former Royal High School at the foot of Calton Hill must now await a further application from a rival offer.

The Royal High School Preservation Trust wants to turn the A-listed building into a new home for St Mary’s Music School.

However, a plan to develop it as a £75 million luxury hotel is awaiting an appeal to the Scottish Government which is scheduled to begin on 28 November. The appeal followed rejection of the application by councillors in December.

A major hurdle for St Mary’s is that there is an agreement between the council and the hotel developer Duddingston House Properties which is not expected to expire until 2022.

City councillors have therefore agreed permission for the school for seven years instead of the normal three. It means the building, designed by Scottish architect Thomas Hamilton in 1825. may not be brought back into use for between eight and 10 years.

Richard Murphy Architects and Simpson & Brown, propose a single-storey extension and demolition of a classroom block and gymnasium.

Trust chairman William Gray Muir said: “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.

“We are delighted that our proposals have received unanimous approval, with the City of Edinburgh Council granting us a special, extended seven-year time-scale for planning and listed building consent.”

Dr Kenneth Taylor, head teacher at St Mary’s Music School, based in Grosvenor Crescent, added: “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.”

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