Threat to heritage

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My attention has been drawn to the letter signed by Mr Hugh Andrew and many other distinguished people, calling for Edinburgh’s skyline to be saved for our descendants (Letters, 23 March).

It brought back very special memories, for, in 1976, my book, Heritage in Danger, was published. It contained a chapter on “Urban Dignity and Decay”.

In researching this, I visited Edinburgh and saw at first hand how the Old Town had been severely spoiled by insensitive and ugly redevelopment, not least the university’s incursion into George Square and its surroundings. But I also saw that Edinburgh had woken up in time to save most of the glorious 18th-century New Town.

I met Oliver Barrett, then secretary of the Cockburn Society, and learned from him of the remarkable conference on the conservation of Edinburgh, which had been organised by the Scottish Civic Trust in 1970, which was addressed by, among others, Sir John Betjeman, Professor Buchannan, Lord Halford and Count Sforza, the theme of whose address was that Edinburgh was as important to the culture and civilisation of Europe as Venice.

Following that conference, the Edinburgh New Town Conservation Committee was formed and funds provided, two-thirds by government and one-third by the corporation.

As I read of the new threat to Edinburgh’s skyline I had a sense of déjà vu. It is depressing to think that Edinburgh’s heritage is in danger yet again.

London’s skyline has been totally ruined by insensitive and ugly redevelopment. As one who has a long Scottish ancestry and a passionate love of Edinburgh, I pray that the Athens of the North will not be similarly despoiled

Lord Patrick Cormack

House of Lords

London

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