SCOTLAND’s most senior astronomer has accused the city council of committing “ultimate vandalism” over plans to light up city landmarks.
Prof John C Brown, who is the country’s Astronomer Royal, said illuminating buildings such as Fettes College and the famous three spires of St Mary’s Cathedral at the West End would be an expensive mistake for the city.
He added the proposals would make Edinburgh look “gaudy” and said it had as much credibility as the trams saga.
However, senior councillors have dismissed his concerns, saying the idea would benefit the Capital.
The Evening News revealed last week how the lighting scheme would create a “dramatic night-time skyline”.
Other buildings would include the Dean Gallery, Donaldson’s School and the Tron Church, all of which would be given a similar bathing to Edinburgh Castle.
But Prof Brown – who cited the Glasgow University tower as a perfect example of how it should be done – said the plans were over-the-top.
“Flooding our planet with unnecessary light and thereby ruining our view of the rest of this amazing universe is the ultimate vandalism,” he said.
“This policy seems to be the more light the better, but that is not the case.
“Yes, buildings are attractive and if they’re lit up sparingly it can work. But doing it willy nilly is not the answer.
“Not everything has to be about astronomy, but Edinburgh has a proud history of it and it would be a shame for it to become even harder to see what’s above.
“I’ve got friends on the Royal Mile who can barely sleep at night because there is so much light as it is.”
There are also plans to introduce more street lighting in the city, which, while seeming like an expensive measure, should save money in the long term with the use of efficient bulbs.
It is hoped this will improve safety, particularly in gloomy zones of the city centre.
Green councillors have already voiced their concerns, pointing out the council already has a £10 million fuel bill.
Cllr Stuart Roy McIvor, who chaired the planning committee where the issue was discussed yesterday, defended the scheme. The SNP councillor said: “Light has advanced tremendously where you don’t get upward pollution like you once did.
“Of course when you look at satellite maps you can see the increase in clusters of light over the years, but I don’t think this will add to it.
“We have to make the buildings look as attractive as possible and this is a way to do it.