Edinburgh World Heritage Site plans halted by Unesco
Two schemes planned for Edinburgh city centre face a two-year delay after Unesco passes strongly-worded resolutions urging Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government to scale back plans
The plans for a 17-storey hotel at Haymarket by Richard Murphy Architects and a £300 million Old Town scheme have prompted Unesco to call for the creation of a ‘buffer zone’ to introduce strict controls over developments just outside the city’s world heritage site, which covers the Old and New Towns, and a robust policy for protecting key views in the city.
The decision has come as a major setback for the council who had managed to push plans ahead in spite of opposition from city heritage groups. Proposals look set to be delayed for a further two years after The World Heritage Committee decision to order the UK government to produce a progress report on its recommendations by 2011.
Decisions may have an immediate impact on the Haymarket scheme where “considerable concern” was expressed over its height. Still awaiting a government ruling following a public enquiry that ended this month, the Scottish Goverment have confirmed that Unesco’s verdict would be taken into account.
Irish developer, Tiger, insisted plans for the £200m scheme would not be scaled back.
Culture minister Mike Russell said: ‘Edinburgh has to balance being a city recognised for its historic legacy alongside serving as a thriving capital city. We will consider these recommendations when shaping how we continue to manage this incredible city.’
Gordon Murray, founder of Glasgow-based GM+AD, made these comments:
‘Recently Government Minister Liam Byrne warned “social justice means power for everyone not just those with the sharpest elbows”. If the Planning process was felt to be undermined by the recent intervention of the Prince of Wales, then the current warnings issued by UNESCO must surely be a far greater threat to any local democratic process. Bath has been “warned” about the height and scale of new redevelopment of industrial land on the perimeter of the city. From my reading, Bath has long been a city capable of taking care of itself. The travails of James Dyson are testament to that. Now Edinburgh has similar threats where the development process is being put further under pressure by UNESCO’s authoritarian rulings. An organisation which professes to be:”working to create the conditions for genuine dialogue based upon respect for shared values and the dignity of each civilization and culture.”
A look at this organisation’s web-site reveals that it is a predominantly European phenomenon. 49% of all WH sites are in Europe and US. Italy has more that China and Africa put together but then few middle class Europeans visit Africa. The lack of accountability exhibited by this organisation is much more insidious than any Royal hand. All based on the dubious value of the WH imprimatur as an enhancer of tourism. It also assumes that in Scotland we have no intellectual basis from which to appraise our own heritage. With Historic Scotland, the National Trust and the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments, I should have thought us more than capable of assessing the value for our own past and our future.
A few more cities need to take a leaf from Dresdens book and tell UNESCO to remember its original goal: to build peace in the minds of men.’