Edinburgh's Cockburn Association publishes election manifesto challenging city candidates

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Edinburgh’s main heritage body is challenging Holyrood election candidates over five key issues from short-term lets to the “privatisation” of public spaces.

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The Cockburn Association has published a manifesto Our Unique City setting out the path it believes the city should take as the Covid pandemic recedes.

It says: “The Cockburn Association believes that the climate emergency, public health and the legacy from pre-pandemic inequality meant that ‘rebuilding’ should not mean resetting the clock to 2019."

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Crowds on the pavements on George IV Bridge in August 2019Crowds on the pavements on George IV Bridge in August 2019
Crowds on the pavements on George IV Bridge in August 2019

It claims many Edinburgh residents, particularly in the city centre, have been alarmed by the “over tourism” of the past few years. And it warns: “Another decade like the last one will drastically change the character of the city, leaving it less resilient in the face of the next crisis.”

The manifesto calls for a reversal of the “exponential growth” in unregulated short-term-let accommodation, which the association says has hollowed out the city centre, displacing permanent residents and replacing them with holiday guests and party flats. And it urges “significantly enhanced enforcement action”.

It argues access to public streets, parks and open spaces should always be free and unrestricted and when events are permitted, infrastructure, such as physical and visual barriers should be be minimised and removed as quickly as possible.

The association says the pandemic has highlighted the importance of quality spaces within the home and claims more home-working will require better minimum space standards. It claims the UK has some of the smallest space standards for housing in Europe and calls for a return to an updated version of the higher standards of the 1960s.

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The manifesto says VAT on maintenance and refurbishment of buildings acts as a disincentive on people investing in the fabric of their homes and calls for tax relief on heritage properties.

And it says funding for tourism and events in Edinburgh should ensure direct support for local businesses and cultural organisations.

Cockburn Association chair Professor Cliff Hague said Covid was changing economies, attitudes, and ways of living. “What endures is the quality of Edinburgh as a place, its landscapes, its buildings, its institutions, its uniqueness. These must be the foundations on which to build our future: that future must be more green, more inclusive and more inspired by conservation than Edinburgh was in 2019.”

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