Comment: Planners can find a middle ground

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Are we stronger because of our historic built heritage? Or are we held back? In the
 last fortnight two commentators have spoken out on different sides. First David Black argued that Unesco should strip Edinburgh of its World Heritage status following a series of planning blunders. He referred specifically to the latest proposals to develop the 190-year-old Royal High School into a five-star hotel.

He said bluntly that the balance between preserving the old and attracting the best of the new in the Capital was wrong.

Architect Lorn Macneal said Edinburgh’s planning system was being held back as a result of a desire to preserve listed buildings in the city. He said that “draconian” attitudes which stop homes from being altered for modern living are rendering properties useless for contemporary families.

As we leave the downturn behind, dozens of plans for new homes across the Capital are being submitted, existing buildings are seeing change of use applications and our green spaces are coming under threat. These arguments are happening every way we turn.

Edinburgh cannot stand still. More and more people want to live, work and study here (who wouldn’t?) and they needs homes and offices.

But we must find a balance. We report today on plans to demolish the former Palais de Danse on Fountainbridge to make way for a 250-flat student development.

The simplest and cheapest solution is simply to knock down the lot. But this building is part of the fabric of the area, a place where many marriages were forged and memories made. Do we really want to swap this for another characterless modern building?

The Palais de Danse needs a new use. But why can’t we insist on its facade being retained? Why can’t we preserve part of our heritage and history? This newspaper believes that planners can find a middle ground that makes way for the new while respecting the past.