Five-year plan to promote city’s heritage site

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SIGNS welcoming visitors to the historic heart of Edinburgh, more maps and information showing points of interest in the city centre and new smartphone apps are among plans to improve the management of the Capital’s World Heritage Site.

Clear boundaries marking the UNESCO area and better information for visitors will help address concerns the city is not making the most of the site. Other measures being put forward include historic maps and smartphone apps, which will highlight often overlooked attractions such as the closes of the Old Town and A-listed buildings of the New Town.

Council chiefs and Historic Scotland will also work to cut down the impact of traffic and encourage walking and cycling in the World Heritage Site.

The move comes after criticism by Professor Charles McKean, the recently departed chairman of Edinburgh World Heritage, who suggested there was little in the site to reveal its historic significance.

“If you are curious about something here, there is nothing to tell you what it is,” he said, adding that aspects of the visitor experience were “among the worst in Europe”.

Councillor Jim Lowrie, city council planning leader, said the five-year action plan sets out how the site will be conserved and promoted.

He said: “Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site status is extremely important to the city as shown by over 250,000 Tripadvisor users last year who voted it the fifth most-recommended site in the world.

“So this focusing of resources in the Old and New Town areas will ensure the internationally-renowned appeal of Scotland’s capital city will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.”

The document was originally released in the autumn but has been redrafted following a consultation with residents, heritage bodies and business groups.

These included assurances that repairs to historic cobbled streets will be of a high standard and efforts will be made to reduce the impact of vehicles.

Phil Miller, a member of the Edinburgh Business Assembly and chief executive of property giant Miller Developments, wrote that contractors “should be persuaded not to dig up cobbled streets and then patch up the scars with crude lumps of totally inappropriate and poorly laid Tarmac”.

In March last year a survey of 34,000 Tripadvisor users placed Edinburgh as the most recommended UK World Heritage Site, and in 2010, 250,000 Tripadvisor users placed Edinburgh as fifth most-recommended site in the world.

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said the site was “crucial to the success of Edinburgh, attracting over four million visitors a year, as well as supporting the city’s quality of life and encouraging inward investment”.

He added: “This action plan lays out the key priorities for the next five years, to ensure we conserve, promote and enhance the site effectively.”