Planning & Environment

The opening of the public inquiry into the development of the former Royal High School in Edinburgh has heightened interest in listed buildings.

Royal High School

The developers propose to use the category A listed building as a 127 bedroom hotel, with two new five storey hotel bedroom wings and demolition of existing buildings. Following refusals of consent in December 2015, revised proposals were tabled, which were refused consent in September 2017.

The appeals involve numerous planning and listed building issues, including the condition of the listed buildings, and cost of repair and maintenance; the impact on the setting of listed buildings; and the weight to be given to alternative proposals for the site – the Royal High School Preservation Trust obtained planning permission in February 2016 for development of the RHS as a music school.

Listed buildings

There are around 47,000 listed buildings in Scotland, including the Banana Flats in Leith.

Listing has various implications, including different tests for deciding planning applications, and the requirement for listed building consent.

Setting of listed building

In determining a planning application, there is a statutory duty to pay special regard to the desirability of preserving a listed building or its setting.

That duty has been the subject of several court decisions, especially in relation to wind farm developments.

In the most recent case of Catesby Estates, the (English) Court of Appeal confirmed that it can be relevant to take into account more than just the visual connection between the development and the listed building.

Maintenance of listed buildings

The Buildings At Risk Register often includes listed buildings – for example, the condition of the Station Hotel in Ayr, which is a grade B listed building, has disrupted rail services.

Local authorities have powers to carry out works urgently necessary for the preservation of a listed building and recover the cost from the owner.

Although urgent works notices are rare, Angus Council successfully defended a claim that works carried out to the C listed Hooks Hotel, Kirriemuir were unnecessary and the costs of £8,875.35 were unreasonable.

Following an urgent works notice, Perth and Kinross Council bought St Paul’s Church in Perth. Planning permission was granted for its redevelopment.

Appeal against listing

Although listing is not necessarily an significant obstacle to use of a building, or its redevelopment, it’s not surprising that owners are wary and have used the right of appeal against listing which was introduced in 2015.

Recent unsuccessful appeals have included gas holders, and the Blackford Hotel in Perthshire, which Highland Spring proposed to demolish and replace with a headquarters building.



Neil Collar

Partner at Brodies LLP
Neil is a partner at Brodies LLP and consistently rated as one of Scotland’s leading planning lawyers. He is well known for both his planning inquiry advocacy and his advisory work. Neil has a particular interest in renewable energy developments.
Neil Collar

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