Crowdfunding to save the Royal High School

(adapted from an email from the Cockburn Association)

The Old Royal High School is under threat!

Please help us win the planning appeal by pledging a contribution!

Thomas Hamilton’s Royal High School, built between 1825-9, is one of the most important Greek Revival buildings in Europeand was one of the buildings to inspire the moniker of ‘Athens of the North’.  It is composed of a powerful symmetrical grouping of principal Doric temple-pavilion, flanking colonnades and subsidiary temples, fully exploiting a prominent elevated site.

As members will know, developers are proposing to convert the building into a luxury ‘6-star Art Hotel’, which will include two massive bedroom wings that will swamp the careful composition of the Category A-listed former Royal High School buildings, and seriously affect the setting of not only this building, but of Calton Hill, one of the most important landscape features in the City.


The plans for a new hotel on the site have been widely opposed in the city and by national institutions including Historic Environment Scotland.  The proposals have been refused planning and listed building consent twice.  However, the Developers behind the scheme have appealed against the decision of City of Edinburgh Council to reject the hotel plan, and the case will now be heard by Scottish Government-appointed reporters later this year.

Funds will be used to pay for this legal representation which supports the preparation of Appeal documents, examination of huge volumes of information, preparation of evidence, and the critical cross-examination of the developer’s professional witnesses in the formal inquiry sessions.

An alternative plan to use the building as a new base for St. Mary’s Music School, supported by the Cockburn Association, received planning permission a few years ago.  This scheme will be thwarted if the hotel consent is not dismissed at the inquiry

We have formed a Coalition of Edinburgh-based organisations to oppose the hotel plan and are committed to fighting this scheme at the upcoming appeal.  The Coalition includes Edinburgh World Heritage, a charity responsible for the conservation and promotion of the city’s World Heritage Site; The Cockburn Association, founded in 1875 to preserve and promote Edinburgh’s heritage and landscape; and the New Town & Broughton Community Council, representing residents.

The battle to save Edinburgh’s iconic Old Royal High School has not yet been won. The developer behind the hotel plan has refused to accept the decision of the democratically-elected members of the Council, with the result that we are forced to engage in a lengthy and expensive process as we go through the appeal.  We have instructed legal representation to help the Coalition at the appeal, which commences in September 2018 and is expected to last for over 5 weeks. 

Edinburgh is one of the world’s great heritage cities.  It’s inscription as a World Heritage Site is well-deserved.  The contrast between the Old mediaeval town and the Georgian New Town is breath-taking to behold.  Edinburgh is also described as the ‘Athens of the North’, a reference to not only the Enlightenment when the city was renown as a ‘hotbed of genius’ but also to its classical architecture.

How to support the campaign

You can make a contribution in a number of ways:

  1. Pledge a donation through Crowd Justice, an on-line fund-raising platform;
  2. Send a cheque to The Cockburn Association at our offices in Trunk’s Close, 55 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR;
  3. Contact us if you wish to make a BACS transfer or would like to discuss your support with us.

Many thanks for your help and assistance

Terry Levinthal
Trunk’s Close, 55 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QB


The coalition partners are