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06 Apr 2018

Heritage masterplan for Edinburgh sets out sustainable tourism model for World Heritage Site

A blueprint designed to create a sustainable tourism model for, and to protect, the world heritage of Edinburgh has been revealed, with the City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh World Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland uniting to develop the five-year masterplan.

Edinburgh is made up of two distinct areas – the Old Town and the New Town. The former is dominated by a medieval fortress, while the latter has been developed from the 18th century onwards, with its design having a far-reaching influence on urban planning in Europe.

Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1995, the masterplan for Edinburgh places briefs on vacant sites, which developers will have to comply with when proposing new additions to the area. The briefs, according to the masterplan, will outline the city’s expectations for potential designs and how that will fit into the historical context of the area.

“The plan identifies a number of areas of concern for residents in the city and in particular residents of the World Heritage site, such as sustainable tourism, development and change in the city centre and engagement with World Heritage site status,” said Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, speaking to The Edinburgh Reporter.

“In terms of quality of new build and how that comes forward in the city, we are looking at ideas with our partners at the council and Historic Environment Scotland. We will have place briefs which allows all three of us to work together looking at development sites very early on and look at what can and can’t be done there before developers come along.”

Development in the area has been somewhat controversial in recent years, with disputes over projects including a £150m (US$210m, €172m) mixed-use leisure scheme by Allan Murray Architects. Opposers to the project – which was approved in 2014 and will feature three new hotels, three office blocks and a civic square – have called it “alien” to the character of the Old Town.

Concerns have also been raised about another major project: the under-development £850m (US$1.2bn, €973m) redevelopment of St James – a retail and leisure complex often branded “Edinburgh’s ugliest building”. To feature a multi-screen cinema, a 214-bedroom hotel and 150 private apartments, as well as 850,000sq ft (79,000sq m) of retail space, the redevelopment’s main feature – a luxury hotel nicknamed the “Walnut Whip” – has caused some controversy as it does not fit with the historic aesthetic of the World Heritage site surrounding it.

“The wider city relies on Central Edinburgh for its working and social life, as a place of recreation, retail and natural amenity, whilst its most iconic skyline and spaces inspire a strong sense of identity and belonging,” said council leader Adam McVey.

“The strength of this Management Plan lies in the cross-agency partnership working involved in its preparation. This has set the standard for the efforts required over the next five years, ensuring that Edinburgh’s built and natural environments are enhanced and not put at risk.”

“As a city we need to get behind what is so special about us. Everything that we are doing as a council and city is working to protect that World Heritage status.”

To read more about the management plan, click here.

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