Plan to give city heritage site a new lease of life

CONCERNS have been raised over the amount of litter and the state of historic buildings in the World Heritage site.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 24th March 2017, 8:32 am
Updated Monday, 27th March 2017, 12:18 pm
Edinburgh's heritage is important for locals and tourists alike.
Edinburgh's heritage is important for locals and tourists alike.

Key bodies have joined forces in an effort to reverse problems they fear are contributing to a decline of the Old and New Towns.

Street clutter has also been pinpointed as a growing issue – while more and more buildings are in need of urgent repairs.

The city council has now teamed up with Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage to create a management plan following a survey of almost 600 people.

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Six areas of improvement have been identified: care and maintenance, control and guidance, awareness of the heritage site, contribution of new development, visitor management and influence and sense of control.

Litter and street clutter within the heritage boundary has emerged as a major issue, as has maintenance of historic buildings and roads.

Among ideas put forward were a new voluntary Shared Service Repairs service and better promotion of existing grant schemes to fund essential works.

In November last year, a survey of more than 200 different sites found that nearly three quarters of buildings in key Old Town thoroughfares were in need of repair.

Experts raised concerns about a growing “complacency and lack of attention” over historic buildings that could lead to them becoming decaying and dangerous unless problems were tackled.

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “The new management plan for the WHS describes many of the achievements of the past five years, as well as areas where we need to all do a better job.

“Through a very open process of consultation and partnership, we have identified a series of new programmes that we believe will make a real difference to the better conservation, management and promotion of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (ONTE).

“We’d love as many people as possible to read the summary of the plan and let us know what they think.”

Despite concerns over new developments potentially threatening the city’s heritage status, results from the Edinburgh People Survey – released this week – showed that 74 per cent of residents believe new buildings and spaces had improved the appearance of their neighbourhood.

And senior councillors said the city had worked hard to ensure new developments were suitable for their wider setting.

Planning committee leader Councillor Ian Perry said: “Over the last few years the council has gone to great lengths to ensure that development is appropriate to ensure Edinburgh is the economic driver of the city region.

“The plan highlights actions under six themes to ensure that the site continues to be a thriving built environment balancing the needs of developers, the site’s heritage and the people living in it.”

And vice-convenor Alex Lunn added: “I am proud of the developments that we as a committee have approved over the last five years and of the council’s role as guardians of the World Heritage Site.”

The management plan will focus on key points for the future conservation of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, including:

n Improve street surfaces

n Address general littering concerns

n Tackle growing issue of street clutter

n Make clearer the boundaries of the site

n Manage ways to help flat owners carry out common repairs which could prevent conservation

n Promote awareness and the significance of the site

n Improve standards of architecture for new developments including use of top quality materials

n Tackle the need to preserve historic environment with the need for economic development.