Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Director's Notes - March 2011

Monthly update from EWH Director Adam Wilkinson.

Mar 30, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, we were a little confused by newspapers reporting of World Heritage status. One day the papers were telling us that our status as a World Heritage Site was not at risk, and the next day that it was at risk (sort of). The journalists must have been in a dreadful rush when writing, as we were (and remain) only too happy to furnish them with facts, details and all that nonsense.

The story about World Heritage status not being at risk was related to the official state of conservation report, which is sent to the World Heritage Committee by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in London. This reported on progress since the 2008 UNESCO mission to Edinburgh, noting that development pressure is pretty low, that the Council has appointed a World Heritage Officer and that much work has been done on the question of a 'buffer zone'.

The 'buffer zone' question tends to generate excitement, much of it unnecessary. The idea behind it is that changes outside a World Heritage Site might affect the site itself. This is all well and good when you are dealing with a monument in a field (indeed the concept came about from cases such as Bodinath or Swayambunath in the Kathmandu Valley, which were stupae in a field in the 1970s, and are now stupae in a mini-city). However, when dealing with a part of a city it becomes more complex, especially when that city is built on a series of hills and valleys, and has extensive historic suburbs. There is no real precedent in the UK - the whole of the city of Bath was designated (whether by accident or design - the only other World Heritage city is Venice, with very clear boundaries).

Consequently, we've spent time studying other cities and how they deal with the question, and then tried applying these to our situation.  Many historic cities have their walls intact, often with a defensive gap or river between them and the rest of the city - such as Visby in Sweden. Krakow has this and then a series of clearly defined compact suburbs around its centre, which form a natural buffer. Both are flat. Then there is the fact that World Heritage status in the UK brings with it no additional protections beyond the existing designations of conservation areas and listed buildings, meaning that it would be a challenge to give a defined zone teeth.

It was this that led to us funding the Colvin and Moggeridge View Study, which the City of Edinburgh adopted as policy. The study defines a series of views into, around and across the city and World Heritage Site, and proposes a means of protecting them, using viewing 'cones' rather than traditional 'corridors' (more on this here) The feeling is that this, combined with the existing protections, ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value of the site is well protected from any damaging change outside of it. It is a more subtle and tailored approach than drawing another line around the World Heritage Site (where does one stop? Fife?). We'll keep it under review.

The question of the Site being at risk was raised a day later in the press with the news that the Department of International Development in London was proposing to drop its annual membership subsidy to UNESCO. It appears not to have consulted colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, or anyone else. The strength of reaction was such that the subsidy was put 'under review' for two years. £12m is not a high price to pay for encouraging international understanding through culture and avoiding the trauma (and expense) of armed conflict.

‹ Return to List
Recent Projects

From the three year Twelve Monuments Project to the major restoration of Well Court.

Who We Are

EWH staff directory and biographies.

Support Us

Find out how you can help support our work.


© Edinburgh World Heritage. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Cookie Policy
5 Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DD. T: 0131 220 7720. E: info@ewht.org.uk
Registered in Scotland No.195077. Scottish charity No. SC037183


Website by Urwin Digital