By Kevin Duguid
AN HISTORIC Scottish hotel could be set for one of the biggest expansions in its history.
Bosses at Sir Rocco Forte’s Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh are looking into developing the basement floors of the iconic A-listed Princes Street building.
The former North British Hotel has four basement levels, which are not open to the public.
Work has started to see if parts of the basement can extend the six existing publicly-accesible floors within the five-star hotel.
Architects have already been brought in to look at how the basement areas could be developed.
And discussions are also taking place with the city council about what types of development would be likely to be acceptable for an A-listed building.
Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “One of the issues for the Balmoral is that there is an area lower down that they can’t get economic use out of, so they have commissioned an architect to see what can be done.
“Given the heritage interest in the building we want to work closely with them to ensure anything that is done is appropriate to that style of building.”
Two of the four basement levels have been ruled out for the development, as they are used as staff areas and also to store utilities equipment.
Among the potential uses for the other two floors are a bar, restaurant, luggage areas, additional liesure space, or creating further hotel bedroom space.
Asked what he would like to see created in the extra space, Cllr Buchanan said: “It is very much down to the commercial decisions of the Sir Rocco Forte Hotel Group. It is a high class offer and it is about maintaining that. How that happens is down to the hotelier, but our issue is, is it appropriate, does it fit in with the world heritage site and does it fit in with the planners?”
If bosses give the green light for development of the two floors to go ahead, it will be one of the biggest expansions in the history of the flagship building at number one Princes Street.
The building became the Balmoral in 1991 following a £23million refurbishment of the old North British Station Hotel by Edinburgh-based Balmoral International Hotels.
Sir Rocco Forte bought the hotel in 1997 and it became the first of his Rocco Forte Collection. A £7million refurbishment of all areas of the hotel was carried out in 2004.
A Balmoral spokeswoman said: “We have had initial discussions with Edinburgh City Council regarding the feasibility of bringing the basement floors of the hotel into use.
“These discussions are at a very early stage. However, we are keen to understand what potential uses our basement floors could have for the Balmoral and the city of Edinburgh.”