Leader: ‘Be thankful the city escaped so lightly’

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EDINBURGH’S world famous architecture brings tourists flocking to enjoy the Athens of the North.

From the Georgian splendour of the New Town to the history-soaked Old Town, the city quite rightly trades profitably on its image.

The result of this is that property owners in the World Heritage Site have to jump through hoops to make even the most minor alteration, and the burdensome planning system often comes under fire for stifling development.

Perhaps the critics have a case, but at the end of the day the system is set up with the aim of protecting and preserving our city for the future, and in general it does a pretty good job.

How different it might have been.

We all know about the architectural disasters which sprung up across the city along with the rest of the country during the post-war period.

Many are still in the process of being removed and are constant moans to this day.

But perhaps we should actually be thankful that the Capital escaped so lightly.

A glance at the Abercrombie and Plumstead postwar plan, said to be the precursor to what we now call the Local Development Plan, envisaged among other things a new motorway which appears to cut straight through an expanded Princes Street Gardens minus Waverley Station.

The copy of the plan, which was discovered by the Cockburn Association, is fascinating to study if only as a reminder of what might have been.

Some of the images for developments, including a new boxing stadium and a children’s culture park in Leith, appear on the face of it quite exciting.

However when viewed in the context of the quality of other developments which did come to fruition, they become distinctly less attractive.

Edinburgh’s postwar planners certainly have a lot to answer for, but on this evidence we should at least be grateful for what they did not pursue.

Let’s hope future generations are similarly grateful to our contributions today as guardians of the city.