Heritage chief slams city as ‘one of the worst in Europe’

Professor Charles McKean says roadworks and rubbish have left Edinburgh lagging behind other cities
Professor Charles McKean says roadworks and rubbish have left Edinburgh lagging behind other cities
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ROADWORKS and rubbish in the city centre places Edinburgh among the worst places in Europe to visit, a leading heritage figure has said.

Dimly-lit, narrow closes and queues of double-decker buses on Princes Street have also damaged the Capital in recent years.

The damning verdict was delivered by the outgoing chairman of Edinburgh World Heritage Professor Charles McKean, who has presided over a period of tense relations between EWH and main funders the city council and Historic Scotland.

In his six years at the organisation, he added, hardly any new buildings of any note had emerged, while he accused the council of being “paranoid” on turning down major projects because of the potential number of jobs involved.

Prof McKean, who is also a leading historian, academic and author, said other European cities of similar size showed Edinburgh up.

He said: “It has been a failure of the last few years that we’ve not managed to improve the general visitor experience, parts of which are among the worst in Europe, particularly with things like historic interpretation and the amount of general clutter.

“You only have to look at other cities like Vienna and Lyon to see the difference.

“If you are curious about something here, there is nothing to tell you what it is.”

He also reflected on a difficult period financially, as the organisation has had to cope with huge funding cuts. Despite those cuts, it did receive a £2.1 million grant from Historic Scotland and could receive further payments from the local authority in coming weeks.

He said: “We’ve had a lot of success in the last six years, considering at that time there was a lot of uncertainty as to what role we should have.

“Some people saw us merely being there to act as a brake on what the council was doing.

“We have been really successful in the restoration work that has been carried out to historic buildings and monuments in that time, which we have led on and we are now much less reliant on public funding. There has certainly been an element of ‘largesse’ to our relationship with the council and Historic Scotland, where they’ve been king handing out pots of gold, and an element of ‘we are the piper and the piper calls the tune’.”

Edinburgh’s planning leader Councillor Jim Lowrie said: “They [EWH] work closely with the council behind the scenes now, and they can still comment on developments which are coming through, which is better than simply objecting to them.

“They are also making a big difference to the historic fabric of the city.”