Call for Volunteers

East Lothian is undergoing considerable change…Our Cases Panel needs your help!

‘ Dream of leaving the hustle and bustle of city life behind for the rolling COUNTRYSIDE and REFRESHING BREEZE OF THE COAST?
Look no further than developments throughout EAST LOTHIAN..’

Would you consider joining the East Lothian Cases Panel?

The East Lothian Panel meets twice a month to consider planning applications that apply to Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas, visiting sites as necessary.  We discuss applications to explore the impact on the historic built environment, and any letters of comment are written to the Council.

Since our establishment in 1956, we have administered our work to protect and enhance Scotland’s heritage, through our volunteer Cases Panels across the whole of the country. This is a wonderful network of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers. Currently, in East Lothian, there are on average 4-5 volunteers but we need further members who can spare a couple of hours each week, or alternate weeks, any travel expenses are paid.

People of any age are very welcome and we are always open to new ideas. There are also opportunities to help with the administration side of things as opposed to planning, if that has greater appeal.

Our aim is always to be constructive, informative and objective. No expert knowledge is required, just an enthusiasm for old buildings and their surroundings! We email you a list of cases so that you can gather thoughts in advance. You can then join our panel discussion prepared to object, comment or support the proposal. Training is provided and you can come along and try it out without any commitment. You have the chance to further your knowledge of your local area and learn from other panel members’ expertise and knowledge. This is truly interesting and fulfilling work with other Society members who share enthusiasm for our corner of Scotland!

This is a chance to help keep the wonderful old buildings and beautiful places in the historic county of East Lothian. Being so close to Edinburgh, they continue to be under tremendous pressure, never so much as at present. The council appreciate what we do, as we are often reminded when they approach us for support.

If you would like to know more, please get in touch with the National Office.

Download the Cases Panel Guidelines here


Dunbar Harbour 05 by byronv2 CC BY-NC 2.0



Open letter from the Chairs of The AHSS, Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage and Scottish Civic Trust to the Editor of the Scotsman urging Scottish Ministers to refuse permission to turn the former Royal High School into a hotel.


Plan to turn the old Royal High School into hotel must be rejected once and for all


We write as Chairs of four of Scotland’s leading heritage bodies – the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, and the Scottish Civic Trust – to urge Scottish Ministers to refuse permission to turn the former Royal High School into a hotel.

The proposal has been the subject of two planning applications, both of which were rejected by the City of Edinburgh Council. The most recent application was rejected unanimously by the Planning Committee, and was subject to a substantial number of public representations, 94% of which were objections.

The hotel developer lodged an appeal against the decisions, and this was heard in a public inquiry in September/October 2018. The decision on the appeal was called in by Scottish Ministers, who will take account of the Inquiry Reporter’s findings.

The Royal High School, built in 1825-29, was the masterpiece of renowned Greek Revival architect, Thomas Hamilton and is recognised as one of Europe’s most important historic buildings. The School, which is A-listed, makes a significant contribution to Edinburgh’s historic architecture. It is a centrepiece of the World Heritage Site, the design of it and Calton Hill play a major role in our cityscape.

The proposed hotel would add two very large wings to the building, ruining Hamilton’s composition, and distracting from the southern view of Calton Hill. The western wing would adversely impact on the view east from Waterloo Place. The proposal is not at all sympathetic to the original composition, and is out of scale for a relatively small site.

The economic case advanced by the developer for the new hotel did not stand up to examination in the Inquiry, in terms of neither methodology nor its assumptions.

The hotel’s net contribution to the City’s economy would be minimal, and grossly overshadowed by its adverse impact on the city’s heritage as “The Athens of the North”.

There is an alternative. The proposed adaptation of the Royal High School as a new home for St Mary’s Music School already has Planning and Listed Building Consents. It is a sensitive scheme which respects the Thomas Hamilton building by limiting physical intervention to the necessary minimum. It does not attempt to dominate it, nor does it damage its setting.

It also returns the building to its original use as a place of learning, and with sensible and imaginative levels of public access that are in sympathy with it. Moreover, the Music School project is fully funded and ready to go. The Royal High School would be a splendid home for St Mary’s Music School.

We call on the Scottish Government to reject the appellant’s proposals for an unwanted, unjustified and entirely inappropriate hotel.


Martin Robertson
National Chair, the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland
15 Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BE


Professor Emeritus Cliff Hague
Chair, the Cockburn Association
Trunk’s Close, 55 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SR


Dr Brian Lang CBE FRSE
Chair, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust
5 Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD


Colin McLean FSAScot LRPS
Chair, the Scottish Civic Trust
The Tobacco Merchant’s House, 42 Miller Street, Glasgow G1 1DT





published in The Scotsman, Thursday 6 June 2019, p.34


Royal High School Objection Letter

Have a read of our Forth & Borders Cases Panel letter to Edinburgh Council

Published today, take a look at our comprehensive letter which tackles each element of the new hotel proposal. This is the result of group viewings of the hotel plans and lengthy discussions to dissect the positive and negative elements of the proposal.

The panel had hoped to see a great improvement in the designs following our input in 2015, however, we have seen little that can be commended.

View the letter here

Great thanks to Stuart Eydmann for his guidance and support in putting this letter together.

Have you written to the City of Edinburgh Council? Do so now and have your say in the future of our World Heritage Site. Deadline Friday 24th March 2017. Find out all you need to know here.


Public Meeting Presentations

View all the presentations given by our esteemed speakers on Tuesday 14th March 2017

We are very pleased to make available online the presentations given at our Save the Royal High School Public Meeting by our passionate speakers. Click on the titles below to see the presentations.

Fred Mackintosh, the planning process to date.

Cliff Hague, the economic case

Adam Wilkinson, World Heritage Site context

Alastair Disley, the new hotel proposal and visualisations

Elizabeth Graham, how to object – step by step


Save RHS Public Meeting

Jilly MacLeod summarises an excellent evening held in Edinburgh’s Central Hall on Tuesday 14th March 2017

The Central Hall buzzed with excitement on Tuesday evening as just shy of 300 people streamed into its splendid interior to hear the AHSS’s presentation on the proposed hotel redevelopment of Thomas Hamilton’s Royal High School on Regent Road. After a brief introduction by Carol Nimmo, Chair of the Regent, Royal, Carlton Terraces and Mews Association, in which she read out a message of support from SAVE Britain’s Heritage, the first speaker – Fred Mackintosh, Faculty of Advocates ­–­ gave a recent history of the site and explained how we ended up with three proposals in the planning pipeline and who makes the final decisions. He concluded with the probing question: ‘What does it say about our country if we’re prepared to trash the Royal High School for a five-star hotel?’

Following on was an enlightening talk by Adam Wilkinson of Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, who put Hamilton’s building into historical context, describing how a rediscovery of ancient Greece in the late eighteenth century had given rise to a new architectural style – the Greek Revival – which unlike the Neo-Classical, based on the buildings of ancient Rome and redolent of empire, spoke instead of the people and democracy. This was a fitting style for a city steeped in Enlightenment thinking and seeking to express Scottish ideas through the built environment. Ambitious to show equal rank with cities of the ancient world, the Royal High School was the embodiment of Edinburgh’s concept of itself and as such is ‘one of the most important Greek Revival buildings in the world’.

Cliff Hague, Chair of the Cockburn Association, then gave an overview of the economic impact of the new development proposed by DHP (Duddingston House Properties), his PowerPoint presentation enlivened with emoticons of smiling and sad faces and a cartoon of an old hag with a crystal ball. His argument was that any economic forecast, such as DHP’s claim that their new hotel would provide £25 million per annum towards Edinburgh’s GDP over a seven-year period, were simply predictions rather than fact, and the assumptions and calculations upon which they were based were ‘no more sophisticated than a crystal ball’. Adverse conditions could easily change the context of the development, the predictions could be proved wrong, and we might end up with a budget hotel rather than a luxury one!

Alastair Disley, Convenor of the AHSS Forth & Borders Cases Panel, followed by looking at the planning application, outlining the extent of the proposed demolitions while highlighting common themes of the existing site – natural materials, symmetry, picturesque compositions, classical buildings given room to breath – elements sadly lacking in the new proposals. He then took us on a visual tour using before-and-after images from DHP’s planning application, eliciting gasps from the audience as he switched from one image to another and heady views of Arthur’s Seat were rudely interrupted by soaring barrack-like buildings that rose up from the ground like ‘a submarine surfacing’.

The final speaker of the evening was Elizabeth Graham, a long-term member of the AHSS Cases Panel, who provided practical advice on how to put in an objection to the proposed hotel development, either on the spot using the blank letters and guidance sheets provided on each and every chair or later online. In rounding up the evening, Carol Nimmo stressed that just because it has already received planning permission, it was wrong to assume the St Mary’s Music School proposal ‘has it in the bag’; it was now more important than ever to submit an objection. She finished with the heart-felt plea to ‘ask your granny, your children, your neighbours, even your postman, to object!’ and we sincerely hope you do!

Find out how to object here