Try to avoid knee-jerk heritage responses

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In view of the strong feelings and potential for misunderstanding in the current debate I need to begin with my view that Edinburgh’s Royal High School is a national treasure.

I also believe that we need a bold vision for Edinburgh which retains and respects our distinctive built heritage, yet leaves room for it to have a place within a vibrant and living future.

Achieving the vision needs to knit together respect with creativity, funding sources, 
viability, the regulatory framework and a desire to create a living environment as often as possible.

Our vision should not rule out the ambition for this generation to leave for our successors distinctive and iconic additions to our environment.

That vision requires us to avoid the knee-jerk reaction, that all change, except that which pleases me, is wrong.

I have been struck by the number of people who have expressed concern at the wall of negativity from some, and especially some heritage 
pressure groups, whenever a proposal they do not like is 
tabled.

Such a litany of negativity is evidenced by your correspondent David J Black
(Letters, 2 March).

For example, without actually naming me, he attributes to me “an alarming paucity of vision” because I have suggested that Historic Scotland has listed perhaps 25 per cent too many buildings, drawing away focus and energy from those parts of our heritage that we must preserve.

I think it is because I have vision that I recognise that in a few cases, the best way to secure a living heritage may not be to impose extra burdens on their use and ownership.

The competition for the Royal High School launched in 2009 by Edinburgh Council was intended to attract ideas about the use, design, funding and potential of the building.

The competition process, launched in compliance with the European competitive dialogue process has, no doubt, evidenced some flaws.

I know some (not all) of our heritage groups see their role as exerting a “corrective pressure” on what they don’t like.

A more worthy mission is to seek ways of developing confidence that we can indeed do great architecture and living spaces. It will be easier to do that unencumbered by the confidence that their own view is the last word and that perceived failings are catastrophic.

(Cllr) Cameron Rose

City Chambers

Edinburgh

David J Black raises some very incisive issues regarding the disastrous impact of the damaged planning process across Scotland, citing Edinburgh in particular.

Not mentioned, however, was one relatively recent decision taken last year by Edinburgh City Planning Committee to grant planning permission for a proposed development on the site of Craighouse – previously a Napier University campus.

This large site not only contains a number of Grade A-listed buildings but is one of Edinburgh’s Seven Hills and is a protected area of great natural beauty.

It has been used for decades by locals, and also people from further afield, as a wonderful public amenity.

Despite the greatest number of letters of objection ever received by Edinburgh City Council against this planning proposal, permission was granted. This permission entitles the developers to rip out great swathes of grass and countless trees in order to build monoliths completely unsuited to the existing listed buildings far less to the beautiful site as a whole.

What is also unbelievable and alarming is that in order to achieve this the planning committee cut straight through both national and local planning regulations and guidelines which must raise questions of probity.

It is also worth noting that this same site is still on the market but now with planning permission granted and so also raises the spectre of “land-hoarding” as part of the developer’s speculative attempts to maximise profits.

Where next, the Castle Esplanade or Arthur’s Seat?

Dougie Hamiton

Craiglea Place

Edinburgh