COMMENT: We shouldn’t hit the panic button just yet

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EDINBURGH’s World Heritage status is once again under the microscope today.

Following the visit by members of the UK committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) last year, they were sufficiently concerned about the impact of planning decisions to recommend an investigation.

A government report has been demanded and Unesco inspectors will scrutinise the city again.

This is not the first time this has happened, of course, but it does once again serve to illustrate what a difficult job Edinburgh faces in planning for the future and conserving the past.

The Royal High and St James developments, whatever your view on their merits, would both deliver massive financial boosts to the city for decades to come.

The move today for an investigation will be of concern to many given the importance of tourism to the Capital, but we should not hit the panic button just yet.

Any major development is going to be controversial, but there is no reason why it cannot be achieved while maintaining the character and beauty of the Old and New Town World Heritage Sites.

And it is just as important the city is not left with bland and uninspiring new architecture out of fear of Unesco reprisals which may never materialise.

Our councillors have already taken very different views on contentious developments and it is right that each scheme is weighed up on its merits.

Edinburgh must constantly evolve and push the same design boundaries which resulted in the creation of some of our most famous architecture in the first place. So we should welcome Unesco inspectors to the city and take heed of their advice as we move forward with designing a Capital to serve future generations.

These are decisions which we must get right and the more expert opinions which are in the mix, the better for everyone.