Fear-peddling, Sabre-rattling, and Champions of Stagnation in Edinburgh.

Posted on November 12, 2008

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picture-4Proponents of development are arguing that their World Heritage City status is stifling Edinburgh. In my post To Develop or Not to Develop? That is the Question in Edinburgh, I discussed the ongoing controversy over the threatened loss of Edinburgh’s World Heritage City status in the face of development. This week, the Unesco investigators are there to conduct their inquiry. They will report and advise on whether Edinburgh should lose its status for failing to adhere to the necessary requirements.

There is an article on The Scotsman (see Unesco Visit: Is Edinburgh Between a Rock and a Hard Place?) quoting Tom Buchanan, local development authority, as saying, “It is not just major developments which see anti-development forces peddle fears about the impact on the World Heritage site. We regularly see the world heritage site being used as a tool to champion stagnation and fight against almost any development in the city…”

Those champions of stagnation have apparently solicited the backing of Unesco, about which Neil Baxter, the secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, commented, “We are concerned over recent sabre-rattling from Unesco, particularly their threat to withdraw World Heritage status unless major planning decisions address their specific requirements… Unesco is a hugely important force for good, but we allow it to become the arbiter of the future of the capital at our peril.”

More enlightened thoughts can be found in the public comments section on the article. Here some of my favorites:

“WH status does not prevent sensitive new development. It should be seen as a spur to development of the highest quality, while respecting the heritage of the city.” – Buttress

“It isn’t rocket science people. You go anywhere in Europe, you will see sympathetic designs for developments in old areas, whilst new developments like Leith or Haymarket, outwith the city centre, can be more creative with their modern design, which is what everyone wants… providing they don’t impact on the historic core of the city centre itself.” – SJS

“Oh come on now, how stupid do you think the people of Edinburgh are ?, [I]t is obvious that those that question the retention of World Heritage Site status, simply want to eliminate one barrier to unfettered and inapropriate developments for this (once) fine city. Who will benefit from these developments? The citizens of Edinburgh?, or the corrupt lending banks and the architectural vandals, who seek to replace building of historic significance and architectural merit with cheap & shoddy ‘carbuncles’, cf New Royal Infirmary. I can hear the sound of greedy little paws rubbing together with glee and anticipation at the loss of world heritage site status.” – roadstohell.

And I never can resist the slightly amusing:

“Edinburgh is grubby these days… The atmosphere too at times can be intimidating with feral looking people intimidating you…”

“Poor development will kill the goose that laid the golden egg… And it is a fragile golden egg – the remarkable visuacontinuity which forms the civilising backdrop to our lives can easily be shattered,” [covering us all in a sticky goo]…

Overall I was really impressed by the quality of the comments.  It’s sad to see that this is still a problem despite so many informed, passionate heritage enthusiasts in Edinburgh.  I will report on the results of the UNESCO visit when they are available.


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