Director's Notes - February 2017
Adam Wilkinson's reflects on a busy start to the year at Edinburgh World Heritage
Feb 28, 2017
It’s time for a new plan for Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. As a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, the UK Government (and hence the Scottish Government as heritage is a devolved matter) is obliged to ensure that each of its World Heritage Sites has a robust ‘Management Plan’ to identify issues and opportunities associated with the site, and present an integrated plan to be implemented over a five-year period.
The draft plan for the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, which has been written with our partners at City of Edinburgh Council and Historic Environment Scotland, will be available soon for public consultation. Your feedback from 2016 revealed that while Edinburgh is viewed as a highly attractive place to live and work that engenders a strong sense of identity and belonging, there were a number concerns over the future of the World Heritage Site.
These concerns included the poor level of maintenance of many historic buildings and streets, the perceived negative impact of some new development, whether systems of control in the planning process were sufficiently robust, as well as some negative impacts of the city’s fast-growing tourist economy. The new Management Plan will attempt to address these issues through a series of new initiatives as well as through improving awareness of existing programmes. Please look out for the plan and let us know what you think.
On a related topic, a revised plan for a luxury hotel at the Old Royal High School has now been submitted to City of Edinburgh Council for consideration. Their first proposal, which we objected to, was rejected, and so this is a scaled down proposal.
Overall, our initial perspective is that the revised proposals do not differ substantially from the initial submission, remain inappropriate for a building of such cultural and historical significance, and represent a threat to the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site. Specifically, the visual impact of the proposed modern extensions to the east and west of the site remain overbearing and will damage the classical landscape setting. On balance, we maintain that the fully funded St. Mary’s Music School alternative proposal for the site is a better option for the site and the city, and has our full support.
The developers – Duddingston House Properties, also issued a lengthy and unprecedented Developer’s Statement levelling significant criticism against the various parties who have argued against the initial proposal including myself. Many of the allegations were inaccurate or misleading, and we remain confident that the new planning committee, which will be in place after the May local government elections, will reject the new proposal.
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