Donaldson's, Edinburgh

In November 2014 it was announced that site owners CALA Evans would be working in partnership with heritage building refurbishment specialists City & Country to progress the Donaldson’s College redevelopment.

Donaldson's, Edinburgh East of Scotland

The consultation event on February 3 is the first opportunity to introduce the new team from both CALA and City & Country to local residents, businesses, special interest groups and other stakeholders.

It is also an opportunity for the team to reintroduce the existing proposals and show a revised masterplan while answering questions and gathering feedback on what local people think is appropriate to secure the long term future of the site. 

All feedback will be reviewed and considered by the development partners, who intend to host a further public consultation on the 19th of March.


Donaldson's exterior front, EdinburghThe Donaldson’s College site, including the landmark Category A listed Playfair Building, was most recently home to Donaldson’s School for the Deaf.
The cost of maintaining the building and its unsuitability for modern education prompted a decision by the school to sell the site and relocate to a purpose built facility in Linlithgow, West Lothian.

In late 2002 CALA was identified as the preferred bidder. The school remained in the Playfair building until 2008, when its new premises were completed.
In 2004 CALA submitted a planning application for residential redevelopment within the Playfair Building and to the North of the site, which was approved in July 2007. It was updated in 2008 and remains live today. 

The economic downturn in 2008 affected the progress of many developments throughout the country, including the Donaldson’s College project.
CALA and City & Country are now working in partnership to bring the project to fruition.


The existing planning and Listed Building consents are for the restoration and conversion of the Playfair Building and Gate Lodges and the creation of new build housing to the north of the site.

In October 2014, City & Country purchased the Playfair Building and Gate Lodges and is responsible for their restoration and conversion. CALA is responsible for the new build homes.

Throughout the planning process it has been made absolutely clear that there will be no extensions or additions to the Playfair building; that its magnificent internal quadrangle will be retained; and there will be no properties on the lawns to the front of the building.

In 2007 planning consent was given for a total of 63 conversion units within the Playfair building and lodges and 72 new build units to the north of the site. 


Donaldson's detail, EdinburghBoth partners have identified potential enhancements to the existing proposals, which are now seven years old.

The principles of the revised proposals remain true to the approved planning permission from 2007; a crescent of new build apartments to the North of the site broken in the centre, conversion of the existing building into a series of mezzanine apartments, parking for all residents within underground car parks and retention of the South lawn as an open grassed area.

However, a main aim of amended proposals would be to offer a more varied mix of different property types, including more main door access properties in the new builds.

Amendments to the proposal would also allow more historical features, such as fireplaces and staircases, to be retained within the Playfair building.
Other changes suggested would make access to the underground car parking less visible and would create a half moon shaped landscaped garden area between the Playfair building and the new build crescent.


A second consultation event will be held on the 19th of March, with a view to submitting a revised planning application to Edinburgh Council in April.


City & Country is a family owned business, founded in 1962 and renowned as specialist in the restoration and conversion of historic and listed buildings into unique dwellings. It was crowned 2014 What House? Housebuilder of the Year. 

CALA Homes is a premium national homebuilder operating throughout Scotland, the South East of England and the Midlands. It was named Medium Housebuilder of the Year in 2012 and 2013 at the What House? Awards when it also won overall Housebuilder of the Year.

Multi-award winning Richard Murphy Architects, renowned for its work on historic buildings, has been appointed Lead Consultant on the project. Harley Haddow, a multidisciplinary engineering consultancy, another specialist in refurbishment and conversion of sensitive historic buildings is also involved.


On his death in 1830, local newspaper editor James Donaldson bequeathed all his property, to build a Hospital for Boys and Girls, to be called "Donaldson's Hospital". 

In 1833 17 acres of the Lands of Coates was purchased, and in 1838 the eminent Edinburgh Architect William Henry Playfair was appointed to design the new building and his design was approved in 1841. 

While the exterior of the building is palatial in style, the interior was designed in a much more austere way.  Playfair undertook specific interior schemes only for the key public areas such as the entrance hall, dining room and council room.

The building was largely unchanged until the 1950s, apart from work to repair Zeppelin damage caused in 1916.