Plans have been put forward for a £55m National Centre for Music at the site of the former Royal High School in Edinburgh, following the city council rejecting plans to turn it into a luxury hotel.
American philanthropist and former concert pianist Carol Colburn pledged to donate the amount through the Dunard Fund to turn the historic building into a “music education and public performance centre” that would “benefit the whole of Scotland”.
The 192-year-old unused school is currently owned by Edinburgh City Council, which has been searching for a new use for it.
The Royal High School Preservation Trust hopes to create a National Centre for Music which would provide spaces for classical music education, community access and performance.
The plans include St Mary’s Music School, which has already been approved by Edinburgh councillors, as well as a café, gallery and a visitor centre “set in generous and fully accessible public gardens”.
William Gray Muir, chairman of The Royal High School Preservation Trust, said: “The restoration of the old Royal High remains one of the most exciting and important cultural developments in Edinburgh and indeed the whole of Scotland.
“Our goal is that as well as providing an exemplary use for the building, excellence in accessibility and inclusion will be absolutely central to the ethos of how the Royal High School is used.
“The passage of time from 2016 to 2021 has allowed us to consult on and revise some aspects of our design proposal and to evolve our ambitions for the building to create a vision for a new National Centre for Music.
“To facilitate this expanded vision and lock in the economic sustainability of the plans, the trust has received increased funding now totalling £55m.”
Revised proposals to redevelop the 19th-century A-listed building were rejected by city councillors in August 2017.
Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels, co-investors and developers behind the revised Rosewood Hotel scheme, then lodged an appeal with the Scottish Government which stalled progress with the building.
In October last year, ministers deemed that the proposals would cause “considerable damage to the setting of one of the most important neoclassical buildings in the city” and rejected the appeal.
The property was built by Thomas Hamilton in 1829 and is owned by the local authority, but has been largely unused since the school moved out in 1968.
Under the rejected plans, parts of the building would be demolished and extensions would be added to the site.
A Scottish Government report into the plans found views of the building would be “spoiled by the overwhelming scale” by the proposed development.
Ministers agreed with these findings and also that the extensions would appear “overbearing, urbanising and out of context” as well as becoming a distraction in views of the principal Hamilton building and “harmful to its setting”.
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