Poll re­veals pub­lic back­ing for mu­si­cal vi­sion

● More than 80% of re­spon­dents sup­port new use for Old Royal High

The Scotsman - - Around Scotland - By BRIAN FERGUSON Arts Cor­re­spon­dent

Pub­lic opin­ion has swung be­hind a bid to turn one of Ed­in­burgh’s most prom­i­nent land­marks into a new mu­sic school and con­cert venue – with 80 per cent of res­i­dents now back­ing the idea.

Just 10 per cent of peo­ple in the city were in favour of a ri­val project for the Old Royal High School, which would see it turned into a lux­ury ho­tel, an Ip­sos Mori poll has found.

It was com­mis­sioned by the Royal High School Pre­se­va­tion Trust – set up two years ago to pur­su­ing al­ter­na­tive plan, even though the ho­tel de­vel­op­ers have a lease agree­ment with the city coun­cil.

Plan­ners re­jected plans for the ho­tel and then backed the re­lo­ca­tion of St Mary’s Mu­sic School from the west end of of the city to the Cal­ton Hill site.

Al­most half of those sur­veyed by Ip­sos Mori ear­lier this year crit­i­cised the “unattrac­tive

0 Ri­val plans for the land­mark Old High School in Ed­in­burgh have led to a fierce bat­tle over the de­ci­sion de­sign” of the pro­posed ho­tel – which would see multi-storey ex­ten­sions built on ei­ther side of the ex­ist­ing build­ing for the ho­tel’s fives­tar ac­com­mo­da­tion.

More than two thirds said the main ben­e­fit of al­low­ing the mu­sic school to take over the 1829 land­mark would be the nur­tur­ing of Scot­tish tal­ent, with 41 per cent say­ing it would be in keep­ing with its orig­i­nal use. Tourism ben­e­fits were cited by nearly half of re­spon­dents as the most im­por­tant gain with Scot­land’s first Rose­wood ho­tel.

More than a quar­ter of peo­ple cited the 250 jobs that would be cre­ated and the £35 mil­lion eco­nomic boost it is ex­pected to bring. How­ever, 42 per of the 500 peo­ple polled be­tween April and June this year said the city did not need another ma­jor ho­tel.

The re­sults of the sur­vey were re­leased ahead of a rally for the mu­sic school’s “Per­fect Har­mony” at the Canon­gate Kirk on Thurs­day.

Trust chair Wil­liam Gray Muir said: “We thought it was im­por­tant to take an ob­jec­tive read­ing of pub­lic opin­ion. We asked Ip­sos Mori to present our plans and those for the ho­tel with both sets of de­signs as part of face-to-face home­based in­ter­views.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple of Ed­in­burgh do not want another ho­tel at this site and there is lit­tle en­thu­si­asm for the per­ceived ben­e­fits. In­stead they see the ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties a na­tional mu­sic school within the pres­ti­gious and his­toric sur­round­ings of one of our most im­por­tant build­ings would bring in terms of nur­tur­ing young tal­ent and cul­tural her­itage.

“The Old Royal High was built for pub­lic use. Our pro­pos­als would en­sure it stays that way.”

David Orr, co-founder of Ur­ban­ist Ho­tels, one of the firms­be­hindthe­ho­telscheme, said: “We re­main 100 per cent com­mit­ted to our re­vised pro­pos­als which main­tain the his­toric cen­tre­piece of the orig­i­nal Thomas Hamil­ton build­ing as the heart of the new Rose­wood Ho­tel, mak­ing it pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble for the first time since 1829.

“Our de­sign will con­serve the orig­i­nal build­ing.”

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