A landmark masterplan has been drawn up in a bid to avoid planning battles and protect Edinburgh’s heritage zones from overdevelopment
The five-year plan warns that the Old and New towns, both part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, are ‘vulnerable to unsympathetic development’.
The blueprint, created by Edinburgh City Council along with watchdog Edinburgh World Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland, includes a policy where developers will be forced to comply with ‘place briefs’ drawn up for vacant sites.
These briefs will outline the city’s expectations for design quality and how a scheme should fit into its historical context.
Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, which polices the UNESCO site, said the measure would enable the city council to decide a site’s limitations in advance and could avoid disputes.
‘This will inform developers and we will not end up in some of the huge fights we have seen in the last five or ten years,’ he told the Edinburgh Reporter.
The plan acknowledges concerns that new developments ‘are not seen to be in keeping’ with the city’s historic architecture. It is hoped the measures will improve the quality of new developments and stop the city from being placed on UNESCO’s ‘in danger list’ of sites that face losing their heritage status.
A number of developments within the heritage area, which extends from Quartermile to Dean Village and from the West End to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, have proved controversial with conservationists and the public in recent years.
These include the redevelopment of the St James Shopping Centre and the £150 million scheme at Caltongate, recently rebranded New Waverley.
A battle is also still raging over proposals for a luxury hotel on the Old Royal High School site on Calton Hill designed by Hoskins Architects (pictured). Opponents of the scheme said the plans for the grade A-listed Neoclassical building designed by Thomas Hamilton would place the city’s world heritage status in jeopardy.
In addition to safeguarding Edinburgh’s world heritage status, designated in 1995, the blueprint for the site aims to ‘curb commercialism’ and protect the site from the city’s tourism boom.
Historic Environment Scotland director Barbara Cummins said: ‘The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are one of Scotland’s six extraordinary and diverse World Heritage Sites.
‘The issues and challenges facing Edinburgh as our vibrant capital city are complex and many, but this plan goes a long way to address some of the biggest challenges.’