City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

New Plan To Improve Edinburgh World Heritage Site Experience

By edg - Posted on 28 February 2012

Old Town from North Bridge

An action plan for Edinburgh's Old and New Towns will be launched this week to "promote and protect the iconic status" of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site (WHS).

The Old and New Towns were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1995. The World Heritage Committee described the historic centre of Edinburgh as representing “a remarkable blend of two urban phenomena: organic medieval growth and 18th and 19th century town planning.”

Within the boundary of the site over 75% of the buildings are listed, including 656 at category A. It means many ancient buildings within the Old and New Towns are well preserved.

The new plan (view PDF) aims to build on the heritage values of the site, appreciated by tourists and residents alike, with improved maps and signage, smart phone apps that promote and interpret the archaeological heritage of the site, and a demarcation of the WHS boundary.

The action plan also calls for ongoing safeguarding of the site through conservation grants, restoring monuments and promoting high quality architecture and design.

Among the other objectives it itemises are reducing traffic, encouraging walking and cycling, delivering affordable housing and improving the quality of public realm.

Conserve, Restore, Protect, Enhance

The plan was developed by the Edinburgh World Heritage Site Steering Group (City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh World Heritage and Historic Scotland), following a six-month consultation period.

“This action plan sets out how the Council and its partners will conserve and promote all the different elements that make the city one of the most iconic in the world," explained Edinburgh Council Planning Leader, Councillor Jim Lowrie.

“Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site status is extremely important to the city as illustrated by Tripadvisor users last year who voted it the fifth most recommended site in the world."

“So this focussing of resources in the Old and New Town areas will ensure that the internationally-renowned appeal of Scotland’s capital city will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.”

Some of the plan's objectives are broad. One objective is simply: "To support and enhance the high quality of life in the World Heritage Site" and the required action stated as "Promote the WHS as a place for everyone."

Respondees to the consultation offer more specific actions, from the RSPB's recommendation that building restoration works should include nest boxes for swifts, to the suggestion from Phil Miller, a member of the Edinburgh Business Assembly, that "statutory undertakers should be persuaded not to dig up cobbled streets in the middle of a world heritage site and then patch up the scars with crude lumps of totally inappropriate and poorly laid tarmac."

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage said the Action plan lays out the "key priorities" for the next five years.

Miles Oglethorpe, Historic Scotland Head of International Policy, added: “As a continually evolving, living city, Edinburgh is a challenging World Heritage Site to manage. In this respect, it is vital that its World Heritage designation is given due consideration in the many decisions taken that impact upon the city."

The plan will be presented to the City of Edinburgh Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday 1 March for approval.