Let there be lights: Edinburgh skyline to be illuminated

The Castle taken in the evening just after  the scafolding was removed on a clear winters night.
The Castle taken in the evening just after the scafolding was removed on a clear winters night.
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The landscape of Edinburgh would be bathed in light under plans to create a “dramatic night-time skyline”.

The towers, domes and spires of more than a dozen historic buildings would be lit up so that Edinburgh’s distinctive landscape dominates the view as people enter the city after dark.

Buildings to be illuminated in a similar style to Edinburgh Castle include the Tolbooth Church, the Tron Church, Donaldson’s School, St Mary’s Cathedral, Fettes College and the Dean Gallery.

The plan has been unveiled by the city council as part of a strategy that looks to improve public safety and encourage the use of light as “an art form”.

The potential costs – which would be met by the city council, some private building owners and funds created by developer contributions – are not yet known. However, concerns have been raised about the environmental and financial cost of lighting up the Capital’s skyline.

Councillor Jim Lowrie, the city’s planning leader, said: “We are looking at a range of things because it can make a big impact. As you walk around the world heritage site, the pattern of lighting really can bring out the buildings, so we want to expand that.

“If you are coming into Edinburgh from the west, you would see the landscape lit up and that would give you the pattern and shape of the city, which would look really good.”

A working group, led by the council, is to be set up to develop a programme of lighting proposals, while work with Edinburgh World Heritage will focus on creating more “historic lighting”. Under proposals that are to go out to a public consultation, the New Town will be lit with a “cool white light”, while the Old Town will use “a warmer white light”. Public safety would also be improved, with the closes off the Royal Mile properly lit, while buildings of note will also be bathed in light.

However, Green councillor Steve Burgess said: “Reducing the amount of light that the council uses is one of the low-hanging fruits of reducing electricity use, costs and climate change pollution and is one of the things that most councils will look at first to find savings.

“We need lighting for public safety, but I would be concerned about using more lighting just for visual effect when we should be saving money and tackling climate change.

“The council has a £10 million fuel bill – it is not insignificant. Cutting down on street lighting would help reduce that.”

Dave Anderson, the council’s director of city development, said: “The value of lighting has been recognised by many cities. It is widely used to promote cities, enhance safety, highlight landmarks, encourage light as an art form, and as a tool for regeneration projects.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com

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