Council green lights £30m Royal Highland Centre development

The City of Edinburgh Council has
approved plans for a £30m development of the Royal Highland Centre site to
transform the Ingliston-based venue.

Two new hotels, with 165 and 75 bedrooms
respectively, an ‘agri-business’ hub with office, meeting and leisure
facilities and a Centre of Excellence promoting Scottish produce are in the
plans.

Other proposals for lifting the venue to an
internationally competitive level include upping its 18,000sqm of exhibition
space by 50 per cent, installing a new Members’ Pavilion and improving
circulation space in the east part of the grounds.
 

The boulevard off Eastfield Road, which
leads directly to Edinburgh Airport, will also be updated with a new East
Entrance aimed at giving visitors a better sense of arrival.

The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society
of Scotland (RHASS) Chief Executive Stephen Hutt said the council’s decision
brings Edinburgh into a new league for international events.

“A lot of effort has gone into getting to
this stage and we now anticipate an early start to progressing the plans,” he
said. “We are already well established as a top-class venue but this will take
us to a new level. The potential here is unlimited and being adjacent to an
international airport and on the fringe of the capital city, our vision is to
be part of the gateway to Scotland.”

The 165-room hotel and first sections of
the boulevard are due to be completed in 2012, while the overall masterplan
development is scheduled to take 10-15 years.

CN reported last July that a new Edinburgh Airport hotel and conference
centre
, with a capacity for up to 700 delegates, proposed by Glasgow-based
Vinanian Developments, would address a shortage of accommodation for air
passengers.

The RHASS expects the exhibition space
expansion to come on-board in five years’ time.

“It’s our intention to make the existing
facilities more useful and connected,” Hutt explained. “This development is
about completing our offering here and being flexible for every style of
event.”

The proposed expansion of Edinburgh Airport
originally flagged up in 2003 had forced the RHASS to consider relocating to
nearby Norton Park. The subsequent scaling back of the airport’s plans three
years ago opened up the opportunity to improve and expand its existing
facilities, said Hutt.

“The decision to allow us to proceed
represents an exciting milestone for the Society,” RHASS Director Allan Murray
said.

“We believe the new developments will help
us attract even more prestigious events to the RHC, enhancing our reputation as
one of the UK’s leading venues for trade, lifestyle, corporate, sport and
leisure events.

“All of that has spin-off benefit for
Edinburgh and Scottish business in general.”

Murray claimed the facility, which hosts
240 events a year, already contributed £100m annually to the Edinburgh economy
and the Lothians region.  

Last June 190,000 visitors attended the Highland
Show, the biggest ever edition held at the venue.

Do you have a story for CN? Contact:
pcolston@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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