Sweet music brings end to Royal High School saga



The former Royal High School building in Edinburgh is to be transformed into a £55 million national centre for music after the City of Edinburgh Council agreed to the lease of the historic property.

Councillors on the Finance and Resources Committee today approved a proposal by the Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT) for a long lease of the property.

Submitted in response to the council’s search for a long-term use for the old Royal High School, the RHSPT put forward new detailed proposals for the restoration of the iconic Thomas Hamilton building on Calton Hill as a “world-class centre for music education and public performance for the benefit of the whole of Scotland”.

The Trust said its ambitions evolved into a vision for a new National Centre for Music with clearly defined spaces for classical music education, community access and engagement and performance.

St Mary’s Music School, which received unanimous planning approval by Edinburgh councillors in 2016, remains at the heart of the proposal. In addition, the proposals include a café, gallery and visitor centre, set in generous and fully accessible public gardens.

The design team on the project includes Richard Murphy Architects, architects, design and accessibility; Simpson and Brown, conservation architects; Optimised Environments (OP-EN), landscaping and environment; and David Narro Associates, civil engineers.

According to committee papers, the Trust will pay an initial £1.5m to secure the 125-year lease agreement, with a £1 per annum charge every year thereafter.

Most of the £55m budget for the project will be funded by the Dunard Fund, with £10m coming from endowments.

A briefing document added: “The RHSPT scheme is based on amendments to an existing planning consent; funding for the development has been demonstrated; and the proposed use is acceptable, protecting its prominent position and allowing future public access.

“The establishment of a National School of Music would be of strategic significance to the city.

“In conclusion, it is recommended that the proposal from RHSPT is selected as the preferred option for the site.”

Councillor Rob Munn, Finance and Resources convener, said: “It’s great news that this iconic building, set in the heart of our World Heritage Site, will now be restored and put to good use again, making it accessible for many generations to come.

“I’m delighted committee approved this proposal today as I’m confident it meets our criteria as the RHSPT will ensure a sustainable long term future for the former school while at the same time committing to the high architecture standards required for future restoration of the building to make sure it is in-keeping with our World Heritage Site.”

Councillor Joan Griffiths, Finance and Resources vice-convener, said: “This is great news for people in Edinburgh as when we finalise the lease, we’ll explore partnership opportunities with the RHSPT so we can share knowledge and open up opportunities for our pupils as well as other musicians, choirs and orchestras from throughout the city to make good use of this much loved building and the world class facilities the trust is planning to provide.”

Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels, who had their revised plans for a 127-room redevelopment of the building knocked back by the Scottish Government in November following a public inquiry, had vowed to return with fresh proposals for the site.



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