Controversial hotel developments threaten Edinburgh's World Heritage status

By Sophie Witts

- Last updated on GMT

Controversial hotel developments threaten Edinburgh's World Heritage status

Related tags World heritage site

A series of major hotel developments could see Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site status revoked, with inspectors set to descend on the city this week.

Plans for a 12-storey luxury ‘ribbon’ hotel​ - which critics have dubbed both a walnut whip and #theturd – and the decision to transform the city’s neo-classical former Royal High School building in to a ‘world-class’ £55m hotel​ have left the local council facing criticism.

Both schemes have been slammed by conservation groups, with Historic Scotland damning the Royal High School plans as damaging the ‘integrity, setting and significance’ of the site.

A team of inspectors from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) – which advises UNESCO – will descend on Edinburgh from 13 October for a two-day visit to assess the impact of the developments.

Controversial 'ribbon' hotel approved in Edinburgh

The result could see UNESCO prompted to launch its own investigation, potentially stripping the city of its World Heritage status.

In the wake of the debate Edinburgh City Council is set to begin a public review of the city’s world heritage site management plan next year.

Councillor Ian Perry, convenor of Edinburgh’s planning committee, told The Guardian​ that the group’s current planning policy didn’t ‘treat Edinburgh’s world heritage centre as a museum’.

He said: “It allows for development, so there’s no question that development isn’t allowed. Edinburgh is a dynamic place: the city is providing a huge amount of employment and investment.

“Whether we need to fundamentally change the way in which we manage the world heritage centre will be discussed in the coming months as part of the review of the management plan.”

The historic Royal High School building

Scottish boom

Edinburgh’s hotel industry is booming, with upcoming developments including a 150-room hotel beneath Edinburgh Castle​, a £35m 180-room Union Hanover waterfront site​, and plans to convert a former chapel​ in to a 22-room four-star boutique hotel.

The Serviced Apartment Company (SACO) is planning to develop a former office building  in to a 187-unit aparthotel.​ The site, which is pending approval from the City Council, would sit within the city's New Town area - a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Edinburgh's hotels are set to welcome an additional fifteen million foreign tourists over the next five years​ following the introduction of new EasyJet and Air Canada flight routes.

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