THE United Nations is to investigate whether the installation of wheelie bins in Edinburgh goes against the city’s status as a World Heritage Site.
The bins have been met with widespread anger from residents, condemnation by two High Court judges, and even been brought to the attention of the Prince of Wales.
Officials from UNESCO - the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation - yesterday said they had requested that the agency’s UK delegation investigates the use of the containers. A spokesman for the UN said: "We have asked them to look into the situation and either explain it or take action to address the concerns raised. They will have to carry out their own investigation and report back to us."
In a letter to protesters, Francesco Baudarin, the director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, said the wheelie bins would be examined by the organisation’s World Heritage Committee this summer.
UNESCO granted World Heritage status to both the Old and New Town in 1995 - but it also has the power to withdraw the award.
The World Heritage Site includes the Royal Mile, Heriot Row, Northumberland Street, Great King Street, St Mary’s Street and Regent Terrace.
Eight separate residents’ groups wrote to the Paris-based organisation in February, in a bid to help them block the council’s 16-week trial of the bins in the New Town.
The trial was launched on Tuesday.
Susie Lynn, the secretary of the Regent, Royal and Carlton Terraces Association, said she was delighted UNESCO is to investigate.
"I think this is extremely significant news that they are bringing this on the agenda," she said. "They are obviously taking it very seriously - I wish the council would. We have been telling them for months the bins are a threat to the World Heritage Site. Perhaps this will make the council wake up.
"As far as the residents in Regent Terrace are concerned, this is Playfair’s most famous terrace and these bins are an eyesore."
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said: "The 16-week containerisation trial in certain areas of the World Heritage Site will be closely evaluated, including independent monitoring by Queen Margaret University."