Mavisbank House saved by £5m funding award

Mavisbank will be saved!

The AHSS is thrilled to learn that the National Heritage Memorial Fund has announced a funding award of £5.3m to the Landmark Trust for initial work to stabilise Mavisbank House and prevent further decay.

Campaigners have laboured for decades to save the 300-year-old architectural gem in Midlothian, Scotland, from collapse following a catastrophic fire 50 years ago. Its terrible condition and uncertain ownership have left this ‘Category A’ masterpiece in a derelict and highly perilous state.

The Landmark Trust has been working with Midlothian Council, Historic Environment Scotland, the Mavisbank Trust and others to identify a viable solution to Mavisbank’s woes for many years, and made the application to the National Heritage Memorial Fund in January 2024 believing the house met the criteria of being of ‘outstanding importance to the national heritage’. The grant will enable Landmark to pursue phase one of a fresh plan to give Mavisbank House a vibrant and sustainable future.

Further information is available on the Landmark Trust’s website.

Read the letter from our President Mary Miers in support of the application.

Think our work is important? You can support the Society’s campaigning work today by becoming a member or donating.


Image © Tom Parnell






Mavisbank update from the Landmark Trust

Following William Kay’s outstanding lecture ‘Phoenix Rising? A Reconstruction of Mavisbank with a View to Restoration’ on 12 February, the Landmark Trust has given us an interim update:

The Trust’s application to the National Heritage Memorial Fund was submitted at the end of December, after a great deal of work by the design team, and with the advice and assistance of numerous others.  A site visit has now been scheduled, after which the NHMF Trustees will formally consider the application ahead of their meeting at the end of March. We hope for a positive update from the Trust, probably towards the end of April/early May.


Think our work is important? You can support the Society’s campaigning work today by becoming a member or donating.






AHSS Objects to Demolition Proposal in Edinburgh Conservation Area

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland’s Forth & Borders Cases Panel has lodged objections against the demolition proposal for the building at 50 Gillespie Crescent within the Marchmont, Meadows, and Bruntsfield Conservation Area. This structure, constructed in the 1930s for the Royal Blind Asylum and School, stands as a meticulously designed stone building with a slate roof, contributing significantly to the area’s character.

The proposed replacement—a five-story building with 145 student flats—does not align with the area’s special character. Our objections emphasise the disproportionate scale, unsuitable design, and encroachment upon open spaces, undermining the conservation area’s character and diminishing the neighbouring tenements’ amenity. We firmly advocate for exploring alternative uses for the existing building, preserving its historical significance, and ensuring any development respects the area’s unique heritage.

The AHSS stands firm against the demolition of this distinctive building, stressing the need to uphold the architectural and historical integrity of Edinburgh’s Conservation Areas. Our objections aim to encourage thoughtful consideration and alternatives that respect the heritage and character of this historic area.

Read our objection letter.

Think our work is important? You can support the Society’s campaigning work today by becoming a member or donating.


Image © Copyright kim traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.





Forth & Borders group: Cases panel Secretary & Convenor wanted!

F&B Cases panel role

Cases panel Secretary and Convenor wanted!

Are you thinking about a future role in the heritage sector?

The Forth & Borders Group of the AHSS is seeking a new convener and secretary for its cases panel.  This is an important, dynamic role in the work of the Society.  Past conveners and secretaries have frequently used their experience to great effect in the heritage sector including planning officer / heritage management posts with local authorities and HES.

The panel meets on Wednesday evenings, on-line using Zoom and sometimes in person in Edinburgh.  IT literacy is essential, including a familiarity with Zoom, Excel, Dropbox, Microsoft Office and email.  Training will be provided.  We are looking for an enthusiastic, capable, well-organised person with good communication skills.  Although the role is largely voluntary, a modest monthly payment is available.

If you would like to know more, please email the by 18 December 2023 and we can arrange a Zoom call to provide more information.


Forth & Borders group: Cases panel Secretary & Convenor wanted!

F&B Cases panel role

Cases panel Secretary and Convenor wanted!

Forth & Borders is seeking a new convener and secretary for its cases panel.  This is an important, dynamic role in the work of the Society.  Past conveners and secretaries have frequently used their experience to great effect in their future careers in the conservation world.

Please send expressions of interest to the by 10 November.


Call for survey responses: Buildings at Risk Register

Harlow Consulting

Participate in an online survey!

The Buildings at Risk Register was established in 1990 in response to growing concern over vacant listed buildings and those in Conservation Areas that had fallen into disrepair. Since its inception, the BARR has provided information on buildings of architectural or historic merit in Scotland that are considered ‘at risk’. Identifying these buildings has helped find new owners who have saved many from continued decay and loss.

The historic environment faces many pressures. We continue to witness historic buildings falling into disrepair, becoming vacant with no identified new use; being damaged by fire; or threatened with demolition. These factors have prompted HES to act.

HES have commissioned Harlow Consulting, a leading research agency in the heritage sector, to undertake an extensive survey to help HES to understand who uses the Buildings at Risk Register, and the impact it is having. The survey seeks to engage individuals, organisations, communities, and professionals, who have an interest in the reuse of historic buildings at risk.

Your input matters! HES values your views and insights, which will help inform decisions about the Register. Together, we hope to determine the best approaches to addressing the numbers of buildings at risk in Scotland, so that we are reusing and saving as many as possible.

The survey can be found here: It will be open for completion until the end of this month.


Call for volunteers: Edinburgh historic property owners


Participate in a Research Study!

Do you own and live in a listed property in Edinburgh?

Has your home been retrofitted to improve its energy efficiency?

Or are you planning on having some retrofit work done?

If yes, then researchers from the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture want to hear from you, as part of a research project being run in conjunction with Edinburgh World Heritage.

If eligible, you will be invited to an interview to share your experience of retrofitting (or your plan to retrofit) your historic property. The interview will last about 1 hour and will be conducted virtually (via Zoom or MS Teams) by the University of Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA).

Learn more about the project, check if you are eligible to participate, and express your interest by filling out this short form:


Lowood House near Melrose set for demolition

The Forth and Borders cases panel of the AHSS is concerned by plans to demolish Lowood House, near Melrose.

In the context of the planned expansion of Tweedbank village, Scottish Borders Council is considering a number of options for the Lowood House estate, which it is understood was acquired by it for £9.6 million in 2018.

Complete demolition is understood to be the preferred option.  Read local press coverage here and here.

Read our letter to Scottish Borders Council, in which we argue for a sustainable tourism use to be found for the building, here



Image Lowood House, © Walter Baxter (cc-by-sa/2.0)


Call for volunteers: Church recording project

Scotland’s Churches Trust

Scotland’s historic church buildings are currently experiencing a period of upheaval of a scale last seen in the 19th century. Hundreds of sites, many of which have been places of sacred ceremony, community fellowship and spiritual refuge for centuries, are set to close their doors to the public.

In most cases, the exterior solid fabric of these well-known local landmarks will be saved, as the buildings are reused for other purposes, but the artefacts inside will mostly be removed elsewhere and scattered to the four winds.

Scotland’s Churches Trust is working with Historic Environment Scotland on a pilot project to try to enlist and empower local volunteers across the country to make a record of as much of this unique, multi-generational, cultural heritage as possible, before it is lost forever.  We reproduce the call for volunteers made by its director, DJ Johnston-Smith, below:

“By its very nature this is effectively an emergency recording exercise. Depending on the church size and the number of available volunteers, we would hope to complete the survey of each church in as little as a single morning or afternoon. You can read one volunteer’s thoughts on a recent church recording session here and watch a short video about that day here.

As well as offering training and advice, we have also created an online church recording form into which volunteers can add a description of each item and up to five photographs straight from their smartphone or tablet. The results of these recording sessions will eventually be made publicly available on the CANMORE website.

The Church of Scotland Presbytery Planning process officially closes on 31 December, when all local plans for the future of their buildings have to be submitted to their internal governance committees. Consequently, the full extent of the next wave of closures will become much clearer in early 2023.

Early in the New Year we will host a group discussion on Zoom to lay out our plans before offering some online training for those that can’t make it along in person to the next churches our existing small band of volunteers identify for recording.

We hope to grow a national database of potential volunteers that we might be able to call upon to visit their local closing churches. So if you would like to get involved and help make a permanent record of your local church before its closes, please get in touch with our director DJ Johnston-Smith at and we will add you to our potential church recorders mailing list.”


Concerns regarding development at Dean Bank House

Following reports from local members, the AHSS wrote to Hal Osler, Convener of the Development Management Sub- committee to raise concerns regarding an ongoing development at Dean Bank House, a late 18th century Classical
villa in the Inverleith Conservation Area (20/01244/FUL & 20/01245/LBC)

Dean Bank House was built as a three bay, two storey villa with a hipped slated roof and gable chimneys circa 1790-96. Single storey lean-to wings, held behind screen walls and rising to two storeys in small flanking pavilions at the rear, appear to have been added soon after construction: they are indicated on Ainslie’s map of 1804.

During 2020–21, planning and listed building consent applications were submitted and subsequently granted for alteration and extension of the house, including a side-extension to the right (north-east) of the principal façade, and the infilling of the rear (north-west) service yard. The AHSS was contacted by several local members expressing concern that the work being undertaken was not in line with the granted scheme, including the footprint and height of the additions.

Despite an email in March to the Chief Planning Officer and the Ward Councillors, we received no reply. As work progressed, it was clear that the roof to the rear extension was of a different form to the granted scheme and impacts much more on the Gothic window. We wrote again, this time to Hal Osler as Convener of the Development Management Sub-committee and Inverleith Ward Councillor, who has confirmed that an enforcement case is in progress. An update will be provided in due course.

Read our letter here


20 May 2022: The Trinity Network Apse Open Day

Date: Friday 20th May, 2022
Venue: Trinity Apse, Jeffrey Street, Chambers Close Stairs, Edinburgh, EH1 1SS
Time: Various throughout the day
Cost: Free

Morning session
Open doors – 10.15am
10.30am – 12.00 noon – Informal Q and A with members of the Trinity Network
11.00 am – Architectural Tour of Apse with Dr Lizzie Swarbrick

Afternoon Session
Open Doors – 12.30pm
12.45pm – Architectural tour of the apse with Dr Lizzie Swarbrick
1.15pm – 2.45pm – A series of short talks on aspects of the Trinity Collegiate Chapel, including Trinity Altarpiece, music, queenship, Trinity hospital, material culture

For further details contact

Note: There is no wheelchair access (because of the steps) to the apse and you enter this historic building at your own risk


Image via Wikipedia commons


AHSS raises concerns regarding a prominent glass roof pod at Abercromby Place

Following reports from local members, the AHSS wrote to Edinburgh Council’s Chief Planning Officer to raise concerns regarding an ongoing development to an A-listed property at Abercromby Place, which includes a new glazed roof extension and terrace (16/02439/FUL & 16/02440/LBC)

15-16 Abercromby Place were originally built as townhouses within a palace-fronted terrace, designed by Robert Reid and William Sibbald, circa 1806-19. In 1966, it was reconstructed as one office building in a modern style behind a retained façade. The proposals by Warwick Stewart Architects, County Antrim, submitted in May 2016 sought a change of use and associated internal and external alterations to create 11 flats, including a rear façade replacement and glazed roof pod.

Both the Planning and the Design and Access Statements confirm the ‘discreet location’ of roof level alterations: that the “lightweight (glass) pod would add to the layers of character and interest within the block… the position of the glass pod and terrace on the rear part of the roof… ensures the front, listed, elevation remains intact and unspoilt”, and “It is set back on the roof and is not visible from street level”, and the balustrade for the roof terrace, “…is to be frameless glazing and set back from the edges of the building in a position which cannot be viewed from street level…”.

Previously reported possible breaches of planning control for alleged non-compliance regarding the dimensions of the glass roof pod, both dating from August 2021, were investigated by the Council who visited the site and found that “the measurements taken show that the depth (6.4m) and height (2.73m) of the pod and its positioning on the roof are in accordance with the approved drawings (6.75m in from front of building, 3.0m from rear). However, the width of the pod is 4.6m wide as opposed to being 6.65m wide on the approved drawing. This means that the pod is positioned further away from the parapet wall between 14 and 15 Abercromby Place”.

A letter sent to David Givan by the AHSS, challenged the ‘limited impact’ of the roof extension, as it is now clear that the roof structure is visible and damaging to the roofscape and streetscape of Abercromby Place, notably when viewed from the corner junction with Dundas Street, and asked “what action the Planning Department took in relation to the roof terrace and pod ‘to ensure any impacts are indeed kept to a minimum’?”

A reply, sent on behalf of David Givan stated, “I would accept that it would appear that the case officer may not have understood the full impact that this addition may have when viewed from different vantage points. In addition, HES raised no objection to the proposals, making specific reference to the proposed glazed access pod and stating that given the extent of past interventions to this building, HES considered it unlikely that this proposal would have a significant visual impact on Abercromby Place. This response, coupled with the lack of objections to the proposals, will have been material considerations in the determination of the application.”

“The Planning Authority is acutely aware of the need to protect Edinburgh’s unique heritage assets and staff are trained in such matters as part of our continual professional development and we will be using this example to re-iterate the sensitivities of the New Town roofscape and the need for full visual impact assessments in determining these cases.”

Read our letter here


AHSS objects to planning applications for demolition of Granton Harbour WWII pillboxes

AHSS Forth & Borders cases panel objected to planning application ref 21/06635/LBC for the demolition of two ‘dilapidated concrete shelters’ on the Eastern breakwater.

Permission has now been granted by Edinburgh City Council for the demolition of the two B-listed concrete structures on the western side of the Eastern breakwater at Granton Harbour, as EdinburghLive reported on Tuesday 8 February (see report here).

The AHSS objected to the demolition, as the WWII pillboxes form a significant stage in the history of the harbour, and the loss of the structures has a detrimental impact on the historic interest of the breakwater.

The planning officer’s handling report states that the “demolitions relate to non-original elements which are not mentioned in the listed building description nor in the Statement of Essential Character”.

But on the contrary, brief details of the former use of the building as WWII defences are given in the first paragraph of the HES Listed Building Description (  The AHSS therefore stands by its objection, which can be read here.

It seems that the structures may have had a later use as changing rooms for sea-swimmers.  Further reading on the history of the harbour can be found on the excellent Granton History website.

Image via Wikipedia commons


Historic Environment Policy for Scotland Two Years On – Have Your Say

Invitation to participate in Historic Environment Scotland’s online survey on your experience and use of HEPS

Two years on from the introduction of the Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS), Historic Environment Scotland is looking for your comments on how the policy is performing.

This survey is for everyone. Whether you have never heard of HEPS before, use it everyday, or are somewhere in between, your feedback is really valuable.

The survey will take around 10 minutes to complete and will be open until 30 August.

Follow this link to take part in the survey


Former Royal High School site now being marketed by the City of Edinburgh Council


In January 2021, the Finance and Resources Committee of Edinburgh City Council agreed that the Calton Hill building would be remarketed, ushering in ‘a new chapter for the property at the heart of Edinburgh’s original World Heritage Site’.

The City of Edinburgh Council has now put the former Royal High School on the open market, inviting interested parties to submit development plans in exchange for a long lease.

Any proposals must guarantee the Royal High School’s long-term viability, be of the highest architectural quality, and take into consideration the conclusions reached by the Scottish Ministers following the public inquiry.

Read the tender document here


AHSS responds to the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy and Skills consultations

Closed 30/04/2021


The AHSS has recently submitted responses to the Scottish Government’s Consultations on:

  • Draft Heat in buildings strategy – achieving net zero emissions consultation.

Read our response here

View the consultation paper here 


  • Draft Scottish skills requirements for energy efficiency, zero emissions and low carbon heating systems, microgeneration and heat networks for homes.

Read our response here

View the consultation paper here





REPORT: Martin Robertson on ‘Preserving the Cultural Heritage, Supporting the Green Transition’ G20 Culture and Climate Change webinar

Climate Heritage Network Webinar 12 April 2021
‘Preserving the Cultural Heritage, Supporting the Green Transition’ 
Part of the G20 meeting in Italy.

by Martin Robertson, Chair of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland

On behalf of the AHSS I attended this webinar to see how far it would concentrate on the built heritage and the possible mitigations which might enable historic buildings to adjust successfully to the future levels of energy efficiency that governments might demand of them. I quickly discovered that the programme was aimed not at the already converted but was an attempt to convince the G20 countries that heritage could be made a part of the solution. The Italian Government, the current President of the G20 countries, had decided that culture was to be the main theme of their Presidency, and this webinar was a small part of their exploration of this.

It was quickly evident that Italy’s main concern will be seismic events, extreme weather, rising sea levels, flooding and tourism overload, so much of the webinar was looking at reacting to these events rather than making sites and buildings more sustainable in themselves. They saw regular monitoring through IT, satellites and drones as the way to prevent the worst effects of these events before they happen.

Tourism is the fastest growing source of global carbon emissions, already at an estimated 8% of the total. One third of all tourism is to the Mediterranean countries, so the Italians have put themselves forward as natural leaders for a new approach to this. The Italians clearly think that the cultural heritage = what tourists want to come and see i.e. it is cultural heritage because tourists want to come and see it rather than for the sense of place and educational and emotional value that we might like to think that we place upon it in Britain and Scotland. This attitude does often appear here as well since it provides an easy way of giving a calculable value to sites, but does, of course, tend to exaggerate the honey pot nature of tourism as more and more people visit the must-see sites while neglecting the other sites which give a completely necessary setting without which the honey pots become little more than theme parks.

Key messages which did come out of the webinar –

  • Successful mitigation of the effects of climate change will require a complete change in the lifestyles of the developed world.
  • Close monitoring of sites using IT, satellites and drones will give warnings and help with future planning.
  • Heritage must become more climate literate and much better at climate risk assessments.
  • Indigenous knowledge can contribute enormously to cultural management strategies.
  • A level of loss must be accepted i.e. We can expect that each site can only be preserved for so long. We are not going to be able to save everything so how far do you go to protect any one thing.
  • It is almost always possible to retrofit historic buildings to an acceptable standard of energy efficiency without lasting damage to their character.
  • Culture and heritage can be key drivers towards net zero and will be a key piece in the puzzle as we “build the better normal together”.

All in all, it was a programme of bite-sized chunks intended to persuade the G20 that this approach was both possible and vitally important. All very well-intentioned, but will they sign up to it?

Here is the link to the day’s programme.



Former Royal High School Appeal Dismissed!

Scottish Ministers have dismissed the planning and listed building consent appeals and have refused planning permission and listed building consent for the proposed development of the former Royal High School, Edinburgh into a luxury hotel.

The AHSS welcomes the decision by Scottish Ministers to reject the appeals by Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group against the refusals of planning and listed building consent by Edinburgh City Council.

The AHSS has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the former Royal High School from the hotel proposals which were simply too much development and in the wrong place. There would have been very real adverse impacts on not just the former Royal High School but also on Edinburgh’s iconic Calton Hill, the New Town, the Old Town and the World Heritage Site.

The AHSS would like to thank all who have campaigned with the Society and contributed to the costs of our representation at the public inquiry. We hope that with this decision by Ministers, the developers will draw back and allow the Royal High School Preservation Trust to move forward with the consented and funded proposal for the music school.


Follow this link to view copies of the decision letters and the reports to Scottish Ministers.



CANCELLED: 30 April 2020: ‘Conservation Areas – Now and Tomorrow’ at the Engine Shed

The AHSS is delighted to be partnering with Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) on this free event about conservation area policy and management.
*Please note that due to the coronavirus outbreak this event is now postponed until further notice.
Register your interest now to receive a notification about the revised date by emailing

Venue : The Engine Shed, Forthside Way, Stirling, FK8 1QZ
Time : 9:45 – 16:15
Cost : Free / Register your interest at

A free one-day seminar at the Engine Shed in Stirling to discuss conservation area policy and management. The event is primarily geared to heritage sector practitioners.

The seminar will be an opportunity for local authorities, advocacy groups, policy makers and decision makers to get together and talk about what is most important to them for good place making. We will be looking at what is working and not working, current best practice, what local resources are available, and the expectations of communities and stakeholders.
We will also be sharing initial plans for new conservation areas policy and guidance and seeking feedback and further participation.

The day will be divided into three sections:

  • Reality and Resources
  • Placemaking
  • Policy Roadmapping.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Mark Douglas (Scottish Borders Council)
  • Christina Sinclair (Scottish Borders Council)
  • Rachel Haworth (Heritage Consultant)
  • Nick Haynes (Heritage Consultant)
  • Sonya Linskaill (Conservation Architect)
  • Martin Robertson (AHSS Chair)
  • Dawn McDowell (HES)
  • Simon Montgomery (HES)

This is a partnership event with The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS), Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

For more information and to register your interest please contact


The AHSS Joins the Climate Heritage Network

The AHSS is pleased to have endorsed the Memorandum of Understanding
proposed by the Climate Heritage Network.

The AHSS believes that we must make maximum use of our entire existing building stock, maintaining, repairing, re-purposing and improving as necessary. All existing buildings contain embodied energy and the materials and construction skills of their builders.  It is important that existing buildings are maintained and kept wind and watertight even before further measures in relation to energy performance are considered. We support the objective that conservation will no longer be a niche activity but be mainstream, such that climate change will supersede heritage as the principal driver of environmental and building conservation. We support the principle that we must recycle all useful materials and ensure that as little as possible goes for landfill. The Society recognises that the historic environment is vulnerable and needs safeguarding with a careful balance between protection and managing change in a sustainable way. For example, many town centres are especially vulnerable to loss of quality buildings through neglect.  These can often be renovated to form new homes. The Society works in partnership with other organisations including Historic Environment Scotland, the Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), Heritage Trust Network Scotland and local building preservation trusts. The AHSS was an early supporter of the building preservation trust movement in Scotland.  We regularly oppose the demolition of listed buildings in Scotland and work to seek new uses for buildings at risk.


‘The Climate Heritage Network is a voluntary, mutual support network of local and city, state/provincial and regional, indigenous peoples’, and national arts, culture and heritage governmental and quasi-governmental boards, offices, ministries and site management agencies as well as NGOs, universities, businesses and other organizations committed to aiding their communities in tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The focus of the network is providing support to organizations from jurisdictions that have made concrete climate action pledges such as those in the Under 2 Coalition and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

The Network was conceived in 2018 at the Climate Heritage Mobilization at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit and was launched in Edinburgh in October 2019 at the Climate Heritage Network Global Launch.

Interested agencies, organizations and businesses can join by signing or endorsing the Climate Heritage Network MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). The MOU will not introduce new legal constraints on participants but will demonstrate clear commitment to support mobilization of the cultural heritage sector for climate action.’







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


National Study Tour 2020: ANGUS OR FORFARSHIRE – POSTPONED TO 2021


Due to the worsening virus epidemic and the forecast that the virus spread may reach its UK peak at the time of our tour, the AHSS co-organisers have come to the difficult decision that we must postpone the study tour.
We intend to offer the same tour over the equivalent weekend next year: Friday 30th April to Monday 3rd May 2021.

The AHSS 2020 Spring Study Tour will be to Angus in north east Scotland, exploring the built heritage of the wider area. We will be based in the adjacent City of Dundee, starting with a coach pick-up at its new railway terminus, adjacent to the award winning new V&A Museum of Design. We will be accommodated in a recently converted Building at Risk, the category A-listed Bell Mill of 1866, designed by Baxter Bros company engineer Peter Carmichael, its bell tower modelled on that of the church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, now along with adjacent North Mill (1935), Dens Street Mill (1865) and St Roques Mill (c.1830s) forming the Lower Dens part of the world’s largest linen sailcloth and canvas manufacturers. It is now the Hotel Indigo, Daisy Tasker restaurant and adjacent Staybridge Apartments. Our city centre location (NE side) will allow us to make walking forays into Dundee.

This year, our National Study Tour will be led by Simon Green and Adam Swan and administered by Caroline McFarlane.

To note your interest, please return a completed form to the National Office, along with a deposit of £100 per person payable to AHSS by 30 November 2019. If you are applying for a single place but prefer to share a room please indicate this (and if possible with whom*) on the form below.

Download your booking form here


Brechin, by Gershom Cumming, Dundee, 1848


Doors Open Days Lecture Series

Join the Cockburn Association for their Doors Open Days Lecture Series!

Date: 23rd- 27th September 2019
Venue: French Institute of Scotland, West Parliment Square, Edinburgh EH1 1RF
Time:  Lunchtime 12:00-12:45  – Evening 19:00- 20:00
Cost: £3, students £1  – to book, please follow the link.

Edinburgh & East Lothian Doors Open Days 2019 will be held on the 28th and 29th September, with a lecture series taking place 23rd – 27th September.

Follow this link to download the full lecture series programme.

Find out more at The Cockburn Association 


RIAS Convention & Doolan Award 2019: Climate of Opinion


Date: 4 – 5 October 2019
Venue: EICC, The Exchange, 150 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8EE
Price:  Convention – £99 RIAS members / £125 non-members / £50 concession – limited number
Combined (Convention & Dinner) – £147.60 (RIAS Member) £171 non-member
Dinner – £69 (single ticket) £600 – table of ten
(all prices + VAT and booking fee)

This year’s event combines the conference and Doolan Award for Best Building in Scotland. Climate of opinion takes place in Edinburgh with a full day of discussion, debate and celebration around designing for climate resilience, diversity and northern Europe. The Friday evening dinner will involve presentation of the Best Building in Scotland Award (presented by Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell) as well as a chance to relax with fellow delegates and convention speakers in the stunning surroundings of the National Museum of Scotland. The event will be rounded off on the Saturday morning with building visits and a city tour exploring some of Edinburgh’s award-winning architecture.

View confirmed speakers so far here
Book your ticket here


RIAS convention 2019 © Reiach & Hall Architects


Winter Lectures Series Announced!

Our Forth and Borders Group publish their programme of talks in Edinburgh.

See below the full list of talks or download the flyer here

Lectures take place at 6.30pm at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, 13 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PA.
Admission: £5.00 (Students Free). Non-members welcome. Members may attend 6 lectures for £25.

Monday 7th October 2019
KIRSTEN CARTER MCKEE – Calton Hill and the Plans for Edinburgh’s Third New Town
Dr Kirsten Carter McKee, author of a recent book on Calton Hill, will show how the architectural expression of Calton Hill has been perceived, accepted and rejected as ideas surrounding cultural identity, governance and nationalism have changed over the last two hundred years.

Monday 4th November 2019
SHANNON FRASER – Sublime experience in the Hermitage wilderness garden, Dunkeld
Shannon Fraser, a professional archaeologist, formerly of the National Trust for Scotland and now the National Trust’s Curator for Northern Ireland, directed a 15-year research programme at the Hermitage. Driven partly by a substantial building conservation project at Ossian’s Hall, an 18th-century garden pavilion, and partly by remedial works at the Hermitage following damage from a major flood in 2004, the results of this research have considerably expanded our understanding of the design philosophies of the Dukes of Atholl. This is our annual joint lecture with Scotland’s Garden and Landscape Heritage.

Monday 2nd December 2019
ANNETTE CARRUTHERS – Ernest Gimson: Arts & Crafts Designer and Architect
Ernest Gimson (1864­­–1919) was described by Pevsner as ‘the greatest of the artist-craftsmen’ and was a central figure in the British Arts & Crafts Movement. A new book on Gimson’s life and work by Annette Carruthers, Mary Greensted and Barley Roscoe will be published by Yale University Press in October 2019.  Some of the discoveries made during their recent research will be outlined in this talk.

Monday 3rd February 2020
VALERIA CARULLO – Edwin Smith, a genius at photography
When, in 1966, Edinburgh University Press published The Making of Classical Edinburgh by Professor A J Youngson with specially commissioned photographs by Edwin Smith, few could have foreseen the impact the book would have on moves to save Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town. John Summerson described Edwin Smith as ‘A genius at photography’ and his work was widely published. The collection of Smith’s images was donated by his widow, Olive Cook, to the RIBA, and we are fortunate to have as a speaker Valeria Carullo, Curator of the Robert Elwall Photographs Collection at the RIBA British Architecture Library. An exhibition at the City Art Centre (November 2019 – March 2020) titled Classical Edinburgh features a selection of Smith’s photographs plus new images by Colin McLean. This is a joint lecture with The Aperture Trust (

Monday 2nd March 2020
TOM PARNELL – Going Forth: Industrial Heritage beyond the Bridges
The Firth of Forth is dominated by a growing collection of celebrated bridges. But along the shoreline are less well-known remnants of an industrial past that were of enormous importance. The lecture will explore railways, limekilns, distilleries and power stations: some gone, some surviving, but all now out of use. Tom Parnell is an architectural historian, and is currently a Senior Casework Officer for Historic Environment Scotland.

Monday 6th April 2020
CHRIS STEWART – Collective Architecture
Chris Stewart is an Architect-Director of the award-winning architectural practice Collective Architecture and a director of the Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA). Collective Architecture, which has offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh, has been owned by its employees for the last twelve years. Chris Stewart will tell us about their projects and approach to sustainable design and client and user involvement.






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


Casework News from Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway Cases Panel voice their concern about a worrying trend in the appeal process. Read their article and take part in the discussion.

The main text is provided below, or you can read the article in PDF format here 


12 February 2019

A worrying trend – Casework news from Dumfries and Galloway

Several recent cases in Dumfries and Galloway that seem to contradict historic buildings advice from the Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland and the local authority planning department have been a cause for local concern. These are cases where the AHSS Cases panel have objected and the local authority have refused the application, twice supported by HES advice. Two cases have led to successful appeals, and the third is in progress. If all three are to prove contrary to what we consider to be the correct conservation approach our Panel, and possibly the planning department as well, will be left confused as to the way forward.

The first case is that of 1 Old Union Street, a Category B listed building in the centre of the Dumfries Conservation Area and concerns the replacement of eleven timber-framed casement two pane windows on the High Street elevation (of a non historic type) with white uPVC casement windows to match the existing design.

The Reporter’s decision was to allow the appeal, with the condition that a new design in uPVC should be approved by planning.

‘The council has referred to Dumfries and Galloway Local Development Plan policy on the Historic Environment – HE1 Listed Buildings. Supplementary Guidance on the Dumfries Conservation Area and the Historic Environment is also referred to. As this is an appeal against refusal of listed building consent not planning permission, development plan policies do not have the status afforded to them by section 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (as amended). Nevertheless, the policies and guidance are a relevant consideration and I have taken them into account in reaching a decision.’

Legal advice has supported the Reporter’s view as expressed above. The end result is that uPVC windows are to be allowed on an important listed building in the historic core of the Dumfries Conservation Area apparently on the grounds that the building will be enhanced in appearance through the reintroduction of windows with glazing bars, to a design approved by planning, and the alien material will not matter because they are on first floor level and above. The decision is regrettable in that it undermines the locally approved policy of using traditional materials in these situations and thereby supporting skills needed for the proper maintenance of our historic buildings. It also makes the final details of design a matter between the appellant and the planners, rather than a matter for public comment. This decision reflects another recent appeal in Annan (Sussex House, listed B) where new uPVC windows were allowed, subject to approval of details by planners, because they were deemed an improvement on the existing uPVC windows.

The second case is that of the Old Manse, Thornhill where timber double glazed sashes were refused as replacements for the apparently original sashes on the grounds that no case had been made for the necessity of their replacement through a proper condition survey. Such a survey was eventually provided only for the Reporter who then allowed the appeal. The Reporter said, ‘I consider that the window condition survey as submitted by the appellant responds directly to the reason for refusal of the application and so could be considered as part of this appeal….The appellant has submitted no evidence of exceptional circumstances that prevented the timely submission of the window condition report, or any justification for the lack of response to the council’s request for a report under Section 9 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. While this could be considered unreasonable behaviour by the appellant, I am satisfied that the consideration of the window condition report as part of this appeal is appropriate as it directly addresses a reason for refusal, although the document was not before the planning authority at the time of its decision.’

This decision appears to set a dangerous precedent for the way cases with inadequate background information are dealt with, if the public and amenity bodies such as the AHSS lose the opportunity to study and comment on details of proposals. The Dumfries and Galloway Panel see many cases where there is no Design Statement, or with misleading or inadequate information to make a proper judgement. Condition surveys for windows have been particularly poor.

A third case is that of Meikle Dalbeattie Farmhouse, Dalbeattie, where retrospective listed building consent was refused for the total replacement of apparently original timber sash windows in a mid nineteenth century C listed farmhouse. The replacements are uPVC and of designs not matching the originals in any respect. This has gone to appeal and we await a decision.

HES guidance ‘Managing Change in the Historic Environment – Windows’ states

‘Generally, replacement windows should seek to match the original windows in design, form, fixing, method of opening and materials. In replacing sash windows, materials other than timber, e.g. uPVC, will rarely be acceptable. (page 18).

Despite the best efforts of the planning department to apply their approved policies, based on accepted best practice advice, the character of listed buildings and conservation areas continues to be eroded. Contractors continue to offer standardised inappropriate replacement windows and doors. At 10 Lovers Walk, in Dumfries Conservation Area, the doorway with overlight of a paired Victorian villa has been changed without planning permission. It now has an ill-matched uPVC door with an overlight of a different size from the immediately adjoining original doorway of the house next door, giving a completely unbalanced appearance. The council has refused retrospective consent and we wait to see the outcome.

We can only hope that our disappointments in Dumfries and Galloway are not being repeated across Scotland. Input from other regions would help build a national picture.


Dumfries and Galloway Cases Panel


Former Royal High School Inquiry Starting Soon

Updates on the Former Royal High School Inquiry.

Edinburgh's iconic Royal High School under threat

The planning inquiry into two proposed developments to turn the former Royal High School on Calton Hill in Edinburgh into a luxury hotel starts on Tuesday 18th September, 2018.

Two reporters have been appointed, Scott Ferrie and Danny Onn, and they will hear the appeal against the refusal of both proposed hotel schemes. The first scheme is for a hotel of 147 bedrooms, and was refused planning permission in December 2015. Then the developers brought forward a second scheme, with a slightly reduced 127 bedrooms, but again, this proposal was knocked back by the City of Edinburgh’s  planning committee. Our position is that the scale of the proposed development overwhelms and dominates the iconic Royal High School Building and damages a beautiful, historic and valuable collection of buildings on Calton Hill.  This is one of the jewels in Edinburgh’s crown, and is one of the important and most recognisable, buildings of the world.

This is going to be a great matter for the Society. We have employed a solicitor to represent us,  Louise Cockburn of DC2 Planning , who is an experienced planning lawyer, and we have two impressive witnesses in Peter Drummond and John Lowrey, who are donating  their valuable  time and expertise to us, and that time has already been, and will continue to be, considerable. We have a team of volunteers backing our witnesses who are also working very hard to provide a strong public presence for the Society and all are doing their best to ensure that these ill advised extensions to the Royal High School do not leave the drawing board. The appeal is also being opposed by the City of Edinburgh Council, Historic Environment Scotland, a coalition of the Cockburn Association,  Edinburgh World Heritage and the New Town and Broughton Community Council, the Royal High School Preservation Trust, who have an alternative proposal for a new building for St Mary’s Music School, the Regent, Royal and Calton Terraces and Mews Association and three concerned individual Edinburgh citizens.

We are very grateful for all the donations we have received to date from our generous members, but we still require more money to cover the considerable costs involved in this complex inquiry.

Please consider donating to the AHSS to help us meet these costs – any amount is gratefully received.

Either send a cheque to the National Office or donate online:



Year of Young People 2018

Scotland’s young people will be celebrated at events and activities throughout the year.

The AHSS is delighted to support the Year of Young People 2018, which ‘aims to inspire Scotland through its young people, celebrating their achievements, valuing their contribution to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally’.

Events and activities are being organised by groups all over Scotland and focus on six themes:

  • Participation – looking at how young people can influence public services and decisions which affect their lives
  • Education – creating a stronger role for young people in shaping their learning
  • Health and Wellbeing –supporting young people to lead healthier, active lives and have opportunities to learn about and improve their mental health and resilience
  • Equality and Discrimination – broadcasting the value of young Scots, challenging negative perceptions of young people, and supporting young people to take leading roles in challenging discrimination in all its forms.
  • Enterprise and Regeneration – celebrating young people’s role in innovation, entrepreneurship and the Scottish economy as well as making Scotland a greener and more pleasant place to live
  • Culture –celebrating young people’s talent and contribution to Scottish culture and arts.

The Forth & Borders Group would like to welcome young people to attend upcoming lectures at no charge. These include talks on William Adam and formal landscape design in Scotland and the collapse of Holyrood Abbey Church in 1768.

You can learn more about the Year of Young People 2018 here.


Winter Lecture Series Announced!

Forth & Borders Group publish their full winter programme of talks in Edinburgh

See below for the full list of talks and download our handy guide here.

Lectures take place at 6.30pm at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, 13 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PA
Admission: £5.00 (£2.50 students). Non-members welcome. Members may attend 6 lectures for £25.

Monday 2nd October 2017
ALISTAIR FAIR – Edinburgh’s Unbuilt ‘Opera House’, 1960 – 1975

Dr Alistair Fair is Chancellor’s Fellow and Lecturer in Architectural History, at the University of Edinburgh. He is a specialist in post-war architecture in Britain and has recently completed a book on post-war theatre building. This talk examines the infamous proposals of 1960 – 1975 for a major new theatre in central Edinburgh that were a regular fixture in the local press. Alistair looks at what went wrong.

Monday 6th November 2017
PATRICIA ANDREW – British architects, landscape designers and gardeners in Russia

Dr Patricia Andrew is an art and garden historian with a career in galleries and museums, and has also served on the Committee of the Garden History Society in Scotland. She specialises in Scottish artists at home and abroad from the 18th Century to the present day. This is a joint lecture with Scotland’s Garden and Landscape Heritage, focusing on the legacy of British (particularly Scottish) architects, garden designers and engineers in Russia.

Monday 4th December 2017
TOM PARNELL – Training the City: Built Heritage Legacy of a Railway Battle

Tom Parnell is an architectural historian, and is currently a Senior Casework Officer for Historic Environment Scotland. He has a personal interest in the built heritage legacy of railway development and re-development. His talk looks at railways in Edinburgh, particularly the dash for Leith in the later 19th Century, examining what might have been, what was lost and what legacy survives today.

Monday 5th February 2018
ELIZABETH DARLING – Heroines of the Canongate: Urban Reform in Edwardian Old Town

Dr Elizabeth Darling is Reader in Architectural History at Oxford Brookes University. Her work focuses on gender, space and reform in the 1890s – 1940s. Elizabeth offers us a different perspective on urban reform in the Old Town, highlighting the many women working around the same time as Patrick Geddes, and the change they effected in environments in and around the Canongate,

Monday 12th March 2018
LOUISA HUMM – William Adam and Formal Landscape Design in Scotland 1720 – 1745

A graduate of St. Andrew’s University, Louisa Humm works for Historic Environment Scotland- initially in their listing team and now as a Senior Casework Officer responsible for listed building consent work in Glasgow and other parts of South-West Scotland. Her lecture investigates how Adam’s garden designs related to contemporary and earlier fashions in Scotland and England. Featured estates include Newliston and Blair Crambeth.

Monday 9th April 2018
DIMITRIS THEODOSSOPOULOS – The Collapse of Holyrood Abbey Church in 1768

Dr Dimitris Theodossopoulos teaches conservation and architectural technology at the University of Edinburgh, and is also a civil engineer. He is particularly interested in the technical aspects of monuments and their preservation. His talk sheds light onto the collapse of Holyrood Abbey Church, following the puzzling substitution of decaying roof trusses with masonry walls in 1760.


RHS Update: Edinburgh Council Lease with DHP

Freedom of Information Request reveals heavily redacted documents

Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC), the AHSS is able to make available for viewing, the lease between CEC and Duddingston House Properties.

Unfortunately a large amount of the documents have been redacted, however, they still make for an interesting read.

The AHSS is committed to stopping inappropriate development of the former Royal High School, Edinburgh, and to that end wishes to make the general public as informed as possible as to the future of this A listed, publicly owned building.

Please click on the links below to read the following documents:

Pinsent Masons Document 1.1 Redacted. ‘Suspensive Conditions’

Pinsent Masons Document 1.2 Redacted. ‘Development Agreement’ and ‘Confidentiality’

Development Agreement 2.1 Redacted

Development Agreement 2.2 Redacted

Development Agreement 2.3 Redacted. ‘The Schedule’ and ‘Draft Contract Award Notice’

Draft Lease Redacted. Document 3.1

Draft Lease Redacted. Document 3.2

Draft Lease Redacted. Document 3.3

These documents have been separated into multiple downloads due to their large size, they are also available on the City of Edinburgh Council Website.




Royal High School Success!

Unanimous rejection of hotel proposal by City Councillors

The City of Edinburgh Council, Development Management Sub-Committee, met on the 31st August 2017 to review and decide on the second hotel application put forward by Duddingston House Properties (DHP), for the former Royal High School in Edinburgh.

The proceedings began at 10am with the report from the Council Planning Officers, who gave a full review as to how the proposals contravene a great number of planning policies. This was followed by excellent presentations from the Alison Johnstone MSP, Historic Environment Scotland, the local Community Council and Residents Association, the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, the AHSS and the three Ward Councillors. All of whom continued a persistent theme focusing on the unique importance of this building and its setting, and the inappropriateness of the height and scale of the design, ‘too much, for too little site’. In the afternoon, the Developers presented their case for granting permission, with a focus on the benefit to tourism that the hotel would bring. The day came to a swift end with Councillors unanimously damning the hotel proposal, describing it as ‘abhorrent and ugly’ and that the city would not forgive them if they allowed it to go ahead.

A good summary of all discussions can be read here.

Or you can access and watch the live recording here. 

Here is a timings guide to some key presentations:
0:16:55 Carla Parkes summarises proposal and report findings.
1:37:52 Steven Robb, HES
1:48:55 Adam Wilkinson, EWHT
1:57:00 Cliff Hague, The Cockburn Association
2:03:40 Alastair Disley, AHSS
3:30:45 David Orr, DHP and Rosewood Hotels
5:06:35 The debate and decision by Councillors

The AHSS were delighted to hear how often the general public were referred to throughout the day, the 3200 objections that had been made to the planning department, the numerous emails and letters that had been received by politicians and Councillors, all were taken note of and considered important. Councillors on the committee were exemplary and explored all elements of the economic benefit and heritage arguments before reaching their decision.

At the moment, it seems unlikely that the Royal High School is entirely safe from inappropriate development. The first hotel proposal is still at the Inquiry stage with Scottish Government Reporters and is sisted (paused) until 8th September. This may be withdrawn, or may continue. Our hope is that DHP and Rosewood hotels will realise that their hotel scheme is too large for this site and unless a significant number of bedrooms are dropped (perhaps 50% or more), no design will be appropriate for this iconic A listed building.
In the meantime, St Mary’s Music School waits in the wings with full (unanimous) planning permission.


Open Letter to the Lord Provost

Decision time for the second Royal High School hotel application – Thursday 31st August

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland in collaboration with the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and the Scottish Civic Trust, have today submitted an open letter to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, urging that the application be refused.

Read the letter HERE


Royal High School Update July 2017

Planning Committee date announced for second hotel application

Following the local elections in May, the City of Edinburgh Council have appointed a new Development Management Sub-Committee.

The committee will meet on the 31st August 2017 to consider the second hotel application from Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group for the former Royal High School on Regent Terrace. Anyone is welcome to attend the proceedings which will start at 10.00am in the City Chambers on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh. Presentations will be made by the Council Planning Officer, followed by those opposed to the application including Historic Environment Scotland, the Residents Association, Edinburgh World Heritage Trust, the Cockburn Association, and the AHSS. The presentations will then be completed by Duddingston House Properties’ representation.

The full report on both applications (Full planning permission and Listed Building Consent) from the Council’s Planning Officers has been published and is available to view HERE.

If you would like to help the campaign, please contact your local Councillor now with any concerns that you may have over the second hotel proposal. Visit our campaign page for helpful information on how to do this.If your Councillor is on the Committee, it is even more important that you get in touch, either via email or face-to-face. Any Councillor that is on the Committee is able to listen to your comments but will not make any comment in response.

The new Development Management Sub-Committee consists of the following Councillors:

Councillor Lewis Ritchie (Convenor)
Councillor Chas Booth
Councillor Ian Campbell
Councillor Maureen Child
Councillor Denis DixonCouncillor Ashley Graczyk
Councillor Joan Griffiths
Councillor Max Mitchell
Councillor Joanna Mowat
Councillor Hal Oslar
Councillor Alex Staniforth

For more information on this Committee please visit the Council website


Festival of Architecture 2017

Continuing to celebrate Architecture – AHSS with the RIAS

If you enjoyed the Festival of Architecture 2016, you’ll be delighted to learn that the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland are bringing the festival back for a second year! FoA2017 will take place across Scotland throughout the month of September and will be exploring the theme of ‘home’. It will join the Scottish Civic Trust’s Doors Open Day events in making this a fantastic month to celebrate architecture.

Exhibitions to look out for include 100 Best Scottish Homes and a return of the popular Adventures in Space.

“This National celebration of great architecture will transform Scotland’s relationship with its built environment. It will improve our appreciation and understanding. It will also be fun!”

David Dunbar, former President of the RIAS and now Chair of the Festival of Architecture 2017

Find out more at or see our events planned for September HERE.


Falkland Craft Symposium 2017

Programme announced for the second annual festival of built heritage craft skills in Fife

Welcome to the 2nd Falkland Craft Symposium

This event builds on the success of the first Craft Symposium in August 2016. Friendships were formed and networks established which are even now bringing benefits to individuals, the locality and nationally.
There are many talented people working in Fife, Scotland and the UK although, at the same time, there is a distinct shortage of skills in some areas. Real efforts are being made to grow those skills so that the crafts can continue to bring joy into our lives while providing a livelihood for those who have dedicated their lives to particular crafts.
Without the traditional building crafts and a renaissance in understanding of the particular needs of old buildings, it will become increasingly difficult to look after the nation’s built heritage adequately. Fife and Falkland have their own particular parts to play in the encouragement of craft and conservation skills.
Each day of the Symposium has been arranged to have a distinctive flavour with two or more fields of craftsmanship being explored. This year there is an over-riding theme which is the craft skills represented by the built fabric and richly crafted interiors of the House of Falkland, which will play an important part in the event. The interiors have a double-layer characteristic which is fairly rare: the house was built 1839-44 for discerning patrons, Margaret and Onesipherous Tyndall Bruce; half a century later the estate was acquired by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute, one of the greatest architectural and craft patrons of his age (1847-1900). Working through his architects, first William Frame (1848-1906)and then Robert Weir Schultz (1860-1951), the 3rd Marquess added a layer of Arts & Crafts richness during the 1890s while respecting to a remarkable degree the then unfashionable layer of the 1840s. How to preserve the special qualities of the interiors is one our current challenges.
In addition to the crafts skills represented by the House of Falkland we also pay attention to those traditional to a well-run Estate in Fife and in particular to thatch; other roofing materials such as pantiles and slates; stone masonry and carving; and the appropriate use of lime-based mortars.
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings – a cause dear to John Ruskin’s heart – will be strongly represented both through the lecture programme and through the demonstrations of craftsmanship which will complement the lectures.
The William Morris Craft Fellowship represents, through the commitment and exceptional qualities of the craftspeople concerned, some of the best of the craft renaissance in Britain today. They are celebrating their thirtieth anniversary this year.
Members of Open Studios North Fife will be present to bear testimony to the rich cornucopia of craft-based activities, both professional and amateur, in our part of Fife.

We look forward to welcoming you all to the Craft Symposium.
Dr Peter Burman MBE FSA, Arts & Heritage Consultant
Craft Symposium Co-ordinator
Chairman of Falkland Stewardship Trust
Chairman of Falkland & Newton-on-Falkland Community Council

View the full programme and booking details here


Royal High School Ministers Update

Breaking news today from Scottish Parliament regarding the Royal High School.

It has been announced today that the Scottish Parliament will not call-in all the planning applications on the Royal High School. Duddingston House Properties had requested that their latest application could be considered by Scottish Ministers in conjunction with their previous application and the St Mary’s Music School proposal so that they may be “properly scrutinised” together. Edinburgh Council emphasised that if this plan were to be carried out, there would not be sufficient time for consultation and proper assessment of the public’s views. The Scottish Ministers have agreed that there is no reason for them to become involved at this time. Download the letter here.

Further to this we are pleased to announce that the number of formal objections to the planning applications continues to increase as the planning department works through the physical letters that were submitted to them. The total number of comments as of the 6th April stood at 4649 (4214 objections) across both the FUL and LBC applications with the total continuing to rise.


RHS Fundraising Concert and Reception

Join us for an evening with two world-class pianists: Malcolm Martineau and Steven Osborne with eminent soprano Lorna Anderson.

6th June Update: Tickets still available, purchase on the door

As part of our ongoing campaign to save the Royal High School we are pleased to offer this world class event to help us raise funds to continue our work.

Malcolm Martineau is recognised as one of the leading accompanists of his generation, he has worked with many of the world’s greatest singers including Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Janet Baker, Olaf Bär, Barbara Bonney, Ian Bostridge, Angela Gheorghiu, Susan Graham and many more.

Steven Osborne’s standing as one of the great pianists of his generation was publicly affirmed in 2013 with two major awards: The Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist of the Year and his second Gramophone Award, this time in the Instrumental category for his recording of Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition and solo works by Prokofiev. Previous awards include a 2009 Gramophone Award for his recording of Britten’s works for piano and orchestra, as well as first prize at both the Naumburg International Competition (New York) and Clara Haskil Competition.

Lorna Anderson studied with Patricia MacMahon at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and excelled, winning several awards. In 1984, she won First Prize in the Peter Pears and Royal Overseas League Competitions and in 1986 won the most highly regarded English vocal award, the Purcell-Britten Prize for Concert Singers. Lorna Anderson has appeared in opera, concert and recital with major orchestras and festivals throughout Europe and elsewhere and is a renowned performer of the Baroque repertoire.

Royal High School Campaign
The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland believes that the hotel scheme will irretrievably damage one of the most important Greek Revival buildings in the UK and the world and, by extension, the set piece of Calton Hill, which lies at the core of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.
Please help us to fund this campaign by attending this concert and also by visiting or writing to your city councillors (find them at, and MSP as Scottish Ministers will decide this important case (find them at

All funds raised will be used to support our efforts to stop this inappropriate development, the primary cost will be legal fees incurred during the Inquiry of the first hotel proposal. The AHSS have engaged a distinguished Planning Lawyer, feeling that the cost of an Advocate would be too great, to represent us in all the legal proceedings. We have sought donations from private donors/trusts and have committed funds from our central pot, we hope that this public appeal will fill the gap that remains. It is highly likely that the second hotel proposal will also go to an Inquiry. Thank you for your support.

Venue: Stockbridge Parish Church, 7B Saxe Coburg Street, Edinburgh EH3 5BN
Time: 6:30pm start
Tickets: cost £45 (£10 for students) including post-concert reception. Payment should be made in cash, cheque or BACS transfer. Cheques are made payable to ‘the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland’ and should be posted to Sarah Pearce, AHSS, 15 Rutland Square, Edinburgh, EH1 2BE. Please write ‘RHS’ on the reverse of the cheque.
For payment by cash or BACS please contact Sarah Pearce in the National Office: 0131 557 0019


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


NEWSFLASH: New RHS Hotel Plans Public Event

Don’t miss the next Public Consultation for the Former Royal High School, Edinburgh. 3rd November

Pre-application Public Consultation

Thursday 3rd November 2016, 3-7pm

Pop down to look at the new hotel proposals from the Urbanist Group with Duddingston Properties, give feedback and have your say.
Location: Former Royal High School, 5-7 Regent Road, Edinburgh EH7 5BL
“Further information relating to these proposals can be obtained from Iceni Projects Ltd. Mercantile Chambers, 53 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 6TS. If you wish to make comments on the proposals, you may do so at the above event and/or in writing to Iceni Projects at the above address or email ( by no later than Friday 25th November 2016.
Please note that all comments must be sent to the above address and are not representations to City of Edinburgh Council. An opportunity to make representations to the council will exist when a formal application is made.”

Autumn Newsletter 2016

The latest news from the AHSS


Once again, it has been a very busy time for the AHSS since the mailing of our Spring 2016 magazine, particularly in this, our 60th Jubilee year!

The Forth & Borders Group are working very hard to protect the Royal High School in Edinburgh, the Dumfries & Galloway Group are running their photography competition, we have launched our new website, and with the help of our North East Group, we are excitedly preparing for our special Jubilee AGM. We do hope that you will be able to join us at Fyvie Castle in October.

As you may know, the AHSS was formed in 1956 to stop proposed demolition in Edinburgh’s George Square. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in this campaign, however in the following 60 years we have been successful in many others! To mark this momentous occasion we will be producing a special Jubilee publication this winter, instead of our usual Architectural Heritage Journal. The Journal will return in 2017. If you have any stories, memories or photos that you would like to be included please contact the National Office, we would be delighted to hear from you.

It has been a pleasure to participate in the Festival of Architecture 2016, if you have not been to any events yet, make sure that you do before the end of the year.

To find out more about what we have been up to, have a read of our latest news pieces and view all upcoming events here on our website.

Keep up to date with all AHSS activity by visiting our Facebook and Twitter.


Best wishes,

From all at the AHSS.

Did you receive a paper version of our newsletter? Let us know your email address and we can email it to you in the future!


Royal High School Update

Processing of Royal High School planning Inquiry on hold

To read our full update CLICK HERE

The current Inquiry has been put on hold (sisted) in order for Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group to submit a new hotel proposal for the A listed building. They have begun the process of making a new planning application by submitting a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) on 16 September 2016.

There is to be public consultation of the new proposals on the 3rd November, 3-7pm at the Royal High School. This is to be confirmed.


Winter Lecture Series Announced!

Meet interesting people and learn something new.

The AHSS is delighted to publish the programmes for our Winter Lectures Series, taking place in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

As with previous years, there is a fascinating line up of topics to be covered between October 2016 and April 2017. Take this opportunity to learn more about your favourite Architectural genre or learn something entirely new.

Members and Non-members of the AHSS are all welcome to attend these events. Ticket costs apply, refreshments are provided at each talk.

Download the programmes here:

Forth & Borders Group Winter Lecture Series

Strathclyde Group Winter Lecture Series 

Dundee Conservation Lecture Series: information to follow


Urgent Royal High School Appeal!

Support the AHSS in fighting to save the Royal High School!

Dear Friends,

As you will know the planning application to turn the former Royal High School, Edinburgh into a hotel was turned down by City of Edinburgh Council in December 2015.  The proponent of the hotel scheme, Duddingston House Properties Limited, has appealed this refusal and the appeal will be heard before two government appointed Reporters over a period of three weeks beginning 28th November 2016. The final decision will be made by Scottish Ministers.

The AHSS intends to continue the fight to secure a future for the Royal High School, worthy of its category A listing and significance within Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.  The costs of securing the necessary legal representation to ensure that the Society’s views can be put across to greatest effect will be significant, possibly as much as £50,000.

Substantial philanthropic funding has already been pledged and the Forth & Borders Group will make a major contribution.  It is hoped that individual members of the Society across the whole of Scotland will, collectively, be able to contribute £10,000.  While clearly, large donations to the Society’s legal costs will be greatly appreciated, it is the case, that with a membership of around 1,000, individual contributions of between £10 and £25 would enable the Society, relatively quickly and easily, to achieve the total it seeks.

There can be no doubt as to the significance of the forthcoming Inquiry.  No one can assume that the original City of Edinburgh Council refusal will be upheld, given the importance in planning terms which can now be attributed to the purported economic value of a luxury hotel.  Were Duddingston House Properties Limited to end up with planning permission on the Royal High School site, it would mean that no listed building, complex of buildings, or site, whether in the heart of a World Heritage Site or not, would be safe.

If you are able to help support our national campaign to protect the Royal High School for an appropriate future use,

Please see the attached document.


We are most grateful for any support that you are able to give.

If you have any queries, do please get in touch.

Kind regards,

Michael Davis
National Chairman, AHSS


Edinburgh World Heritage Site Consultation

Have your say! 25th July Deadline

The City of Edinburgh Council have launched a public consultation and request your views on the Management Plan for the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site. Our Forth & Borders Cases Panel are looking at this in great detail and encourage you to have your say!

“This survey gives you the chance to let us know how well you think the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh work as a place to live, work and visit.”

Not happy with inappropriate or short-sighted changes taking place in Edinburgh? This is your opportunity to influence future decisions. No specialized knowledge required, just your personal opinion.

Take part here.

Deadline 25th July 2016


Royal High School Update

Pre-Examination Meeting 20.07.16 City Chambers

Our Forth & Borders Cases Panel continue to campaign as the future of Edinburgh’s Former Royal High School is still unknown.

This A listed building is the centre point of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the subject of a planning application to turn the former school in to a 6 star hotel. Our Cases Panel, along with heritage and planning experts from across the world, objected strongly to the proposed design on the grounds that it was highly inappropriate both for this building and this location.

Refused by the City of Edinburgh Council on 17th December 2015, Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group have now appealed the decision. The DPEA have appointed two reporters to consider the appeal, whilst the Scottish Government have ‘Called it in’ and will make the final decision.

The Cases Panel continue to make representations whenever possible. Please read our letters of objection below.

Objection September 2015

Objection April 2016

There is an alternative proposal to use the building for the new residence of St Mary’s Music School. Our Cases Panel has seen initial designs and approve in principle.

If you would like to be kept up to date with news, please sign up to our newsletter below.



60th Jubilee AGM Weekend

60 Years of protecting and promoting Scotland’s historic built environment!

Venue: Fyvie Castle
Time: 11am Saturday to 4pm Sunday
Cost: £70 (Discount available for Students)

To mark the occasion of the 60th Jubilee of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, our North East Group will host a wonderful weekend of celebrations.

Join us on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th October 2016, in Aberdeen to celebrate our 60th Jubilee.

The AGM will take place at the spectactular Fyvie Castle on Saturday afternoon, followed by a tour, talk and 60th Jubilee Dinner in the Castle. Accommodation has been arranged at the historic Carmelite Hotel in Aberdeen’s Merchant Quarter. There will be a coach to transport members from the Carmelite hotel to lunch on Saturday, Fyvie Castle, and back to the hotel.

Sunday’s activities will include a visit to one of Aberdeen’s most historic private houses, Chaplain’s Court, a light lunch, talk on the history and heritage of Aberdeen, and photo opportunity outside our beloved Aberdeen Old Town House.

Members to arrange their own transport to Aberdeen on Saturday morning and return on Sunday afternoon.

Download the Booking Form here.

Download the 60th AGM Notice and Agenda.