Capital to get £40k heritage tsar
The City of Edinburgh Council is expected to unveil the high-profile appointment within weeks to avoid future conflicts with conservation bodies and campaign groups.
The postholder is expected to have a key role in mapping out the future shape of the city, balancing demands to generate economic development with protecting the capital's heritage.
Key tasks will include providing advice to council departments on world heritage issues, having input into development for key sites, and acting as a sounding-board between the local authority and heritage organisations.
The post has been created in the wake of a damning report by Unesco's world heritage committee, which was highly critical of Edinburgh's handling of major schemes in recent years and of policies to protect the city's Old and New Towns.
Unesco inspectors demanded major reviews of two schemes previously approved for the Haymarket and Caltongate areas. It also called for the creation of a "buffer zone" to control development just outside the world heritage site and a robust policy for protecting key views in the city.
The council concedes that the post was being created in the wake of the Unesco visit, which was triggered by the level of opposition to the Haymarket and Caltongate schemes.
The world heritage site officer, with a salary of up to 40,000, will be the main point of contact for heritage organisations such as Historic Scotland, but will also be responsible for identifying possible concerns over development sites. Jim Lowrie, the council's convenor of planning, said:
The postholder will work with developers to ensure the outstanding universal value of the world heritage site is reflected in new development proposals."
However, Maria Kelly, a leading campaigner against plans for a 17-storey hotel in the Haymarket area, said: "On the face of it, this sounds like a good idea, but
it won't solve any problems if the council doesn't listen to the concerns of people."
Moira Tasker, director of the Cockburn Association heritage body, said: "One of the worries is this post will replace the voice of outside organisations. There is already an issue over the council trying to prevent Edinburgh World Heritage from commenting on planning applications."
No-one from the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust was available for comment yesterday.
NEW LANDMARKS PROVE FLASHPOINTS FOR FRICTION
MAJOR headaches facing the capital:
1 HAYMARKET: Plans for a 17-storey hotel development have been stalled over fears they will dwarf existing buildings and ruin views from across the world heritage site.
Although the plans were approved at the first attempt by the city council, the Scottish Government ordered a public inquiry due to the strength of opposition and is still to decide their fate.
2 CALTONGATE: Developer Mountgrange faced a prolonged campaign of opposition to its plans for a five-star hotel and conference centre on a huge site in the Old Town.
Heritage groups fought a long campaign against plans to demolish listed buildings and create new landmarks affecting classic views of the city. The developers blamed delays securing planning permission for the firm going into administration.
3 LEITH DOCKS: Trouble is looming on the horizon over plans to create several towering hotels as high as 25 storeys.
Although Unesco has insisted it has no concerns over waterfront developments, heritage groups in Edinburgh have already expressed fears about the impact new buildings will have on views from the city centre, including from existing landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle.
4 PRINCES STREET: This is widely expected to be the next source of controversy, as the city council is pinning hopes of its fortunes being revived on persuading developers to pursue major schemes.
However, the last two developments have run into serious delays and heritage groups are likely to oppose any modern designs or the removal of listed buildings.