Consultation finds concern over Edinburgh’s World Heritage status

The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile
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FEARS have been raised over the management of Edinburgh’s celebrated World Heritage site.

A city-wide consultation found residents were concerned about the impact of new developments and the maintenance of buildings and streets within the historic area.

Artist's impression of hotel plans for the old Royal High School.

Artist's impression of hotel plans for the old Royal High School.

It comes after Unesco warned it was “deeply” worried over the quality of recent developments in the Capital.

Earlier this year, the world heritage body told the UK government of its “strong concern” about the level of protection for the Old and New Towns following a string of controversial projects, including plans to turn the old Royal High School into a luxury hotel.

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “We have received some very clear feedback, confirming our observations, and now we, together with our partners, need to act on it.”

Almost 600 people responded to the survey asking them to rate how the historic city centre is managed.

Residents called for “better quality and more innovative architecture” in new projects, and raised concerns over litter and “the quality of road and pavements”.

Meanwhile, locals also took issue with the balance between their needs and those of tourists. The Royal Mile attracts the largest number of visitors but was seen as not delivering enough for the city’s full-time population.

Affordable housing was another key issue, while many also said that traffic still dominates over walking and cycling.

But residents reported being “very satisfied” with Edinburgh’s city centre as a place to live and work.

Its parks and green spaces were highly rated and it was felt to be safer than most other comparable capitals.

Edinburgh’s strong visual identity and celebrated history were thought to be contributing to a real sense of pride and belonging.

Councillor Ian Perry, the city’s planning leader, said the World Heritage site was of “crucial importance to the future vision and development” of the Capital.

He added: “I would like to thank everyone who gave us their feedback during the consultation period as residents’ views will now help us to ensure that the site continues to be well managed and is of universal importance.

“The survey showed that Edinburgh continues to be an attractive place for people to live and work in and that engenders a strong sense of identity and belonging, which is encouraging.”

Barbara Cummins, director of heritage at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “I would like to repeat my thanks to all of the many people who took the time to engage with the consultation. Now begins the process of making sense of that feedback and how it should be incorporated into the new document. The end result will be that we have a management plan which reflects the needs of the built heritage, and the people who live, work, visit and look after it.”

The consultation feedback will be used to develop a detailed management plan with a draft expected in March.