To Develop or Not to Develop? That is the question in Edinburgh.

Posted on August 22, 2008

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Development in Edinburgh sparks controversy between those who wish to preserve the city’s historic character and those who believe development is indespensible for survival in a competitive economic climate.

Unesco’s Koichiro Matsuura has requested that Edinburgh halt development pending an investigation into whether the city’s historical status is endangered. The Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s Deputy Chief Executive Graham Birse has said that stalling the developments would be “catastrophic.”

The Caltongate development and the Haymarket scheme are two projects that are of particular concern to Unesco. The City of Edinburgh Council approved these projects in conjunction with Historic Scotland in a process which took years to complete.

The £300m Caltongate project would require the demolition of two listed buildings to build a five-star hotel and conference center on Royal Mile. Two hundred homes, 17,000m2 of offices, an arts quarter, and a 205-room hotel would be built on the 2.6ha site of the former New Street bus station. The proposal drew 1,800 objections and was approved without public inquiry.

The £200m Haymarket scheme would result in a 17-story hotel, which preservationists argue will impact the historic skyline.

Alan Robertson of Jones Lang LaSalle, a financial services company with offices in Edinburgh, explained, “The process has already taken a long time and any further delay will endanger the city’s ability to compete for inward investment and employment opportunities.”

Edinburgh has held its World Heritage status since 1995. In November, Unesco investigators will conduct their inquiry on site. They will report and advise on whether Edinburgh should lose its status for failing to adhere to the necessary requirements.

Unesco’s investigation coincides with the release of actor Sean Connery’s book, Being a Scot, in which he lambastes Edinburgh for “whoring” its historic heritage and failing to adequately protect it.

Visit UNESCO’s site for information on Edinburgh as a World Heritage City.

Read Alan Roberton’s comments on The Scotman’s website.

Read more of Sean Connery’s comments at The Edinburgh Paper.

Read more about the controversy at the UK construction industry news website, Building.Co.UK.

Read more of Graham Birse’s comments at The Scotman’s website.

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