COMMENT: Let’s ensure Unesco has all the facts

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IF there had been any doubt about how seriously Unesco is treating the concerns about development in Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, there surely will not be now.

Today we learn officials have expressed “strong concern” about the “significant threat” posed by new building projects.

Mechtild Rossier, director of the World Heritage Centre, has asked the UK Government to take action over “inappropriate developments”, calling the level of development “deeply worrying”. In the official language of mandarins, this is about as strong as it gets.

But is it fair?

Unesco advisers highlight seven “developments” of concern. Some are obvious, including the bid to redevelop the Royal High and the St James Quarter redevelopment. The debate will continue for some time about the merits of those projects, one of which, remember, has been refused planning permission.

But they also include the removal of the Top Shop globe on Princes Street – an act which the city council had no control over and indeed has been trying hard to rectify through enforcement action.

This, and the fact no reference is made to the award-winning Advocate’s Close redevelopment in the heart of the Old Town gives a somewhat one-sided view.

This needs to be rectified. We must ensure that while welcoming the input of Unesco advisers in shaping our city, they also have a rounded view of what is happening here.

Any bid to build in the Old and New Town is going to be controversial and spark debate but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad and must be stopped.

The Advocate’s Close project for example, now considered a model example of bringing together old and new, raised more than a few eyebrows when first proposed. It’s good that Unesco is taking this issue so seriously, but let’s make sure it is armed with all the facts.