Unesco to investigate impact of new developments on Edinburgh’s heritage

Edinburgh's Old Town
Edinburgh’s Old Town

Cultural advisers from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) are poised to hold an investigation into the impact of new developments may have on Edinburgh’s Old and New Town World Heritage Site status.

According to The Scotsman, the world heritage body has called for information on the impact of new developments amid claims that classic views of the city are being compromised.

Unesco acted after an official report called for a “serious investigation” into the way the city’s Old and New Towns are being managed.

The UK and Scottish governments have been asked about the handling of the world heritage site following a warning from advisers.

The city council was also said to have been asked to explain its stewardship of the site.

The Unesco probe is understood to have been prompted by rows over the hotel at the heart of the £850 million development which will replace the St James Centre and a bid to turn the former Royal High School into a £75m hotel.

Work is due to get under way on the St James project, which has been at least a decade in the planning stages, within the next few months after being backed by councillors against the advice of their own officials.

Ian Perry, the council’s planning leader, said: “The present and past planning committees have had a duty to maintain the world heritage site.

“However there is always a tension between the desire to develop within the site and the preservation of its architectural heritage. Clearly there are differing views about how this should be interpreted.

“It is the planning committee’s job to try to allow development to happen without damaging the built heritage of Edinburgh, which in the past has proven difficult and some of the developments have obviously been controversial.

“The present planning committee will now be looking at the management of the world heritage site and will review what has happened in the past.

“If we think there need to be changes we will then consult the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust.”

A spokeswomen for the Scottish Government said Unesco was kept “routinely informed” about proposed developments which affect the country’s world heritage sites.

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