City's heritage put in hands of 29-year-old

THE new man charged with safeguarding Edinburgh’s rich heritage has been named as a 29-year-old landscape planning graduate.

The Cockburn Association - the civic trust which has fought for historic buildings and streets for more than 100 years - has appointed city-born David McDonald as secretary.

Mr McDonald replaces Martin Hulse, who campaigned against some of the Capital’s most high-profile schemes in his four years in the job.

Mr McDonald’s arrival coincides with a number of controversial proposals for the city, including wheelie-bins in the famous World Heritage Site and fresh plans for an underground shopping mall in Princes Street Gardens.

He said today he was delighted to land the job. "I was drawn by the organisation’s concern for city heritage and environmental issues, both very close to my heart.

"The Cockburn Association depends entirely on its members. The wealth of knowledge, commitment and determination is the envy of any voluntary organisation.

"The Cockburn Association is an essential independent voice, not only in safeguarding Edinburgh’s heritage but also as a place of vision for a modern capital city, with respect for its past."

Born in Edinburgh, Mr McDonald spent most of his childhood with his parents in Uppsala, Sweden.

He has a background in landscape architecture, horticulture and city planning from time spent in Canada, Sweden and the United States.

He graduated last year from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with an MSc in landscape planning, and worked most recently for Glasgow University’s Student Representative Council.

But it was his work as a teaching assistant at Cornell University, New York State, that sparked a keen interest in heritage environments and city planning.

It led him to carry out research on the work of Sir Patrick Geddes - widely described as the first father of town planning - which gave him an insight into the safeguarding and development of much of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. Mr Hulse, who joined the Cockburn Association in November 1999, has already taken up a post in the Regional Development Agency, a quango based in Newcastle.

He said today that Mr McDonald was the right man for the job, adding: "I think his experience will be invaluable to the Cockburn Association."

Councillor Trevor Davies, the city’s planning leader, said he was looking forward to working with Mr McDonald.

"We value a close relationship with the Cockburn Association," he said.

"We don’t always see eye to eye, but we have the same objective, which is doing the right thing for Edinburgh."

The Cockburn Association joined forces with the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland to campaign against controversial plans for the old ERI last year.

But the 400 million scheme for flats, offices and bars was finally given permission by the Scottish Executive last month.

In 1965, the Cockburn Association led the opposition to the council’s plans to build a six-lane motorway - on stilts - right through the heart of the city. Edinburgh Corporation was forced to ditch the plan after intense public pressure.