Heritage site under threat from climate change rain

DAMAGE caused by heavy rain and flooding as a result of climate change will be among the biggest challenges faced by the Edinburgh World Heritage site, it has been claimed.

Wednesday, 19th October 2011, 1:08 pm

New studies are to be carried out across the World Heritage site to determine the effect of climate change on some of the city’s oldest buildings.

Conservationists will examine the impact of increased rain on historic buildings in the Old and New towns, along with how flooding could affect the site in the years to come.

Launching the management plan for the next five years today, the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust said climate change was one of the big challenges the UNESCO site faced.

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It states: “We need to understand the physical impact of climate change.

“Changing climatic conditions will affect its fabric, for example, speeding up stone decay, as well as creating significant pressure for the adaptation of buildings to reduce carbon emissions.”

Edinburgh World Heritage Trust spokesman David Hicks said: “Everyone has to prepare for climate change and the question is how will it affect the World Heritage site?

“If you look at what is predicted in the coming years, flooding is one of the major things to look for.

“We need to look at the increased rainfall situation and what the effect will be on historic buildings. You can see straight away we need more data.

“We need to monitor the condition of buildings. It’s partly as basic as how rain will affect stone.

“It’s not necessarily a severe risk but we know the situation will change, and we need to understand how it will affect the site.”

Mr Hicks said a range of measures will have to be taken, ranging from examining the sandstone on New Town tenements to asking homeowners to clean gutters to prevent erosion.

The plan also notes that around 24,000 residents live in the UNESCO site, and that simple measures could help homeowners and tenants.

Mr Hicks said: “One of the things we did last year was find out what happened if you close your shutters. Using thermal imaging cameras we showed it was pretty much the same as having double glazing.”

The Old and New towns were rated first in the UK and fifth out of 900 worldwide by Trip Advisor this year, but the trust said the city could do more.

Smartphone applications and more physical signs are planned, but the trust hopes existing city residents will visit the attractions as well as visitors.

Mr Hicks said: “There is clearly awareness of the site, but certainly there could be improvements in the way the city is marketed.

“We want people to be aware there’s more to Edinburgh than the Royal Mile, and we want people to explore more of the world heritage site.

“We’ll be looking at maps, trials, digital technology, apps to show people around but we need to reach out to Edinburgh residents themselves.

“You can walk for over a mile in the northern New Town and every single building is listed category A. That’s what we want to let people know.”