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18 December 2015, 06:49
Plans to turn an historic Edinburgh building into a luxury hotel have been rejected by councillors.
There were concerns that the proposed renovation of the former Royal High School, which overlooks the capital from Calton Hill, would harm the site's heritage.
The A-listed building, built by Thomas Hamilton in 1829, is owned by Edinburgh City Council and has been largely unused since the school moved out in 1968.
Plans were lodged to create a ``world class hotel of international standing'', led by Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group.
There are alternative proposals to make the site the new home of St Mary's Music School.
William Gray Muir, chairman of the Royal High School Preservation Trust, said: ''The Council's decision today makes it possible for us to pursue our proposals to return the former Royal High School building to its rightful position at the cultural heart of Edinburgh with public performance spaces and a state-of-the-art new home for St Mary's Music School.
''The Royal High School is an iconic building and a unique location and we are delighted that the Council has acknowledged its important place in Edinburgh's illustrious heritage.''
Kenneth Taylor, headteacher of St Mary's, said: ``We are confident that the Trust's proposal provides a far closer match with the architectural and cultural significance of the unique site and, with the backing of bodies like Edinburgh World Heritage, we are hopeful that it will secure the go-ahead from councillors as quickly as possible.''
Green MSP for Lothian Alison Johnstone, who spoke at the planning hearing, said: ''I'm so pleased that members of the planning committee were not seduced by arguments about economic benefit, instead recognising that much of our visitor economy is based on the carefully cherished landscape of our city - an inheritance which this development would have squandered.
''A perfectly feasible alternative is waiting in the wings in the shape of a new music school which much more respects the building and setting and is more likely to widen public access. Let's get to that quickly.''
During the 1970s the building was proposed as the site to host a devolved Scottish Assembly and is also known as New Parliament House.