Plans for a luxury hotel at a prominent site in the Scottish capital have been rejected by Scottish Ministers.

Heritage body the Cockburn Association hailed the Scottish Government’s Directorate of Local Government and Communities decision on the outcome of the appeals into the proposed redevelopment of Thomas Hamilton’s 1825 Royal High School on Calton Hill, Edinburgh.

Developer Urbanist Hotels described the decision as "disappointing" and added: "We will be gathering our thoughts as to what we do next."

READ MORE: Fate of £75m hotel atop Edinburgh's Calton Hill in sight

The Scottish Government said the case was closed and "planning permissions and listed building consents refused".

The Cockburn Association, with its coalition partners Edinburgh World Heritage and New Town & Broughton Community Council, attended the nine-week public local inquiry in 2018.

Terry Levinthal, director of the Cockburn Association, said: “We are delighted with the decision to dismiss the appeal and to refuse planning and listed building consent to this hotel proposal.

"The Old Royal High School is one of the world’s most significant examples of Greek Revival neo-classical buildings in the world, and it is the symbolic manifestation of the Edinburgh’s moniker 'The Athens of the North."

HeraldScotland: The designs were scaled back by the developer.The designs were scaled back by the developer.

He said: "Not only would the scheme cause irreparable damage to the fabric and setting of this Category A listed building, its economic value to the city’s economy was significantly less than had been suggested.

"Together with our Coalition partners Edinburgh World Heritage and the New Town & Broughton Community Council, we thank the very many people who contributed to our campaign against these proposals and who donated funds towards our appeal costs.”

Professor Cliff Hague, Cockburn chairman, said: “The Cockburn hopes that the development interests behind the hotel scheme will step back from their lease, which they hold until 2022, to allow the music school proposals by the Royal High School Preservation Trust to advance.  This scheme, which is a much more appropriate civic use, has planning consent and is fully funded.” 

The Royal High School Preservation Trust advanced proposals in 2017 to refurbish the A-listed building as the new home for the St Mary’s Music School.

That scheme, designed by Richard Murphy Architects has planning and listed building consent.

Joint developer Urbanist Hotels and Duddingston House Properties said earlier it believed its evidence "builds a compelling and overwhelmingly positive case in support of our vision to bring a genuinely world class hotel to Edinburgh and to Scotland".

David Orr, chairman of Urbanist Hotels, said after the decision: "This is a deeply disappointing decision for us, our investors, and our hotel partners. It is a poor day for inward investment in our vital tourism sector. Around 250 full-time jobs and a huge boost to the local supply chain would have been achieved: a £35m per annum GDP contribution will now not happen.

"After winning the original competition, the City of Edinburgh Council requested us to bring the Old Royal High School back to life as a world class hotel with a minimum of 125 rooms. Both the Reporters and Scottish Ministers have failed to recognise the quality and the wider economic value of this hotel, which is at the core of our proposals.

"We had hoped for the first time since 1826 to make The Royal High School publicly accessible, saving it from terminal decay without ripping the heart of the building. Our approach to conserving the fabric of the building was a far lighter touch than other proposals . We acted in good faith and went on to commission one of Scotland’s finest contemporary architects to produce a design that safeguarded Thomas Hamilton’s original masterpiece and that we believe respectfully honoured the structures as a centrepiece.

"It is now 50 years since the Old Royal High School had a proper use and we still do not have a solution that safeguards its future. This decision leaves a magnificent building more at risk than ever.

"As a globally significant city, Edinburgh would have been ideally suited to host a Rosewood Hotel. It is extraordinary that during a national crisis, at a time when it has never been more important to support Scottish tourism and jobs, our country has been denied a world class hotel to put it on a level with other European capitals. This will not help attract the return of the valued visitors that know us and the access to new markets that Rosewood patently has.

"We will be gathering our thoughts as to what we do next."

Peter Drummond, former national chairman of the Architectural Society of Scotland, who was closely connected to the case, said: “Scottish Ministers have agreed with some of Scotland’s foremost heritage experts that the hotel proposals have an adverse impact on not just the former Royal High School but also Calton Hill, the New Town, and the World Heritage Site. 

“They have disagreed with the applicants on nearly every substantive point:  this building is just too important for our heritage to allow this massive development.   The AHSS are delighted with the outcome and hope that Duddingston House Properties will finally step aside to allow the Royal High School Preservation Trust to move forward with their consented – and funded -  proposals for a new music school on this iconic site.”

Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning said: “Scottish Ministers have refused planning permission and listed building consent for two schemes for the conversion of the former Royal High School in Edinburgh to a hotel, in view of the proposals’ adverse effects on the historic environment.

“This follows the consideration of the appeals by independent reporters appointed by Ministers. The appeals were considered by means of inquiry and hearing sessions in September and October 2018. 

“In reaching their decisions, Ministers carefully considered all the evidence presented and the reporters’ conclusions and recommendations.”