Edinburgh's New Town bins row: Heritage body says council plans would cause 'significant harm' to World Heritage Site

Installing controversial bin hubs in some of the Capital’s most historic streets will cause “a significant level of harm to the World Heritage Site”, the conservation body for the Old and New Towns has warned.

By Ian Swanson
Friday, 28th January 2022, 4:55 am

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Edinburgh World Heritage told the council’s transport and environment committee it had put forward “mitigation” measures to lessen the impact of the plans, but it feared they had been rejected.

In a written submission, EWH said it had not been consulted on the bin hubs proposal before the initial approval by committee in April 2021.

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An impression of how a bin hub could look in the New Town.

It continued: “We have consistently advised that we have notable concerns regarding the harmful impact of the proposals on the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site. Our advice to the council from the outset has been that the proposals within the World Heritage Site should take a step back, and explore a wider range of options (beyond communal bin hubs) inclusively with the community.”

EWH said in view of the council’s approval of the hubs it had suggested mitigation measures and provided detailed advice to help the council develop “a bespoke approach required to protect the character of our unique World Heritage Site”.

However, it was concerned that, according to information in the committee’s business bulletin, “the balanced mitigation measures advised to the council by both Edinburgh World Heritage and other heritage partners are not being taken forward.”

The submission said: “We want to be clear and transparent that our position is that the introduction of bin hubs into the WHS without all, or the substantial majority of, the mitigation measures advised by Edinburgh World Heritage will cause a significant level of harm to the World Heritage Site.”

Carol Nimmo, chair of the New Town and Broughton Community Council, told the committee the bin hubs would irrevocably damage Edinburgh’s World Heritage site.

And she said: “It is clear that the council is willing to ignore all the evidence, all the views, and all the advice and just bulldoze through its pre-determined course of action.”

Operational services director Gareth Barwell said out of eight mitigation proposals the council was able to accommodate four: the type of corralling around the bins, the colour of the bin lids, the possibility of relaxing the prescribed walking distance to the bins and the potential siting of some bins on the other side of the road.

Tory City Centre councillor Joanna Mowat said the issue was all about consultation and accused the administration of adopting a “secretive” approach.

“We are asking for this not to go forward until there has been consultation to sit down and tease out the issues.”

Lib Dem Kevin Lang said he was alarmed by the EWH comments.

"It was, in the politest possible way, them ringing the alarm bells and telling us 'Stop and think again.' I think it would be deeply irresponsible to crack on regardless,” he explained.

But convener Lesley Macinnes said any delay would have an adverse impact on another 123,000 people covered by the communal bin review.

She said: “I accept earlier consultations could have been done differently, but there have been considerable efforts by officers to both understand and react positively where possible. We have to press ahead with this, but with clear acceptance there is a need to continue monitoring and discussion.”

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