Yet Edinburgh today faces the greatest assault on its heritage since the failed Abercrombie plan of the late 1940s for massive city-centre redevelopment.
A council seemingly without a clue, a planning department without a clear plan and a developer motivated entirely by short-term financial gain are conspiring to tear apart the fabric of this great city.
Recently, despite a petition signed by more than 5,000 people in the space of only a few days, the city planning committee approved “Caltongate”. This massive stale, sterile modernist confection of concrete by a South African speculative developer, which is completely at odds with its surroundings, is to be built in the heart of the Old Town, just a few hundred yards from the historic Canongate Kirk and Holyrood Palace.
One councillor who voted for the scheme declared it “not hideous enough to oppose”. Opposed by every community group in the Old Town, its only confirmed tenants so far are a UK pub chain and a Premier Inn.
Other utterly unsuitable developments are coming up for approval elsewhere and are increasingly eating into the fabric of this great city.
Edinburgh is not just our city – it is yours and the world’s heritage. We need your help now.
Please give it by adding your signature to petition at you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-confidence-in-the-city-of-edinburgh-planning-department.
In this we:
l Call on the council to halt by whatever means possible the Caltongate scheme.
l Call on the Scottish Parliament to intervene to save the city where the scheme will be situated. l Register no confidence in the city planning department in its current form and membership. l Call on all parties to put in place a clear and coherent development plan for the city which preserves its heritage; prevents development unsympathetic to surrounding architecture; puts in place guidelines to produce developments sympathetic to the areas of the city in which they are placed; provides affordable housing for local residents and prevents speculative development.
Two hundred years ago the legacy of our ancestors was the New Town of Edinburgh. Unless something is done urgently, today’s legacy will be Caltongate.
How will our descendants 200 years hence judge us if it goes ahead?
Government bodies such as Historic Scotland have said nothing. Edinburgh World Heritage has been silenced by council pressure. It is now up to the people of Edinburgh and their supporters to take the lead.
Please help us by signing up to our campaign and spreading the word to as many people as possible. Speed is vital.
It is only with the support of thousands that we can save a unique part of the world’s heritage from irreversible damage.
Alexander McCall Smith
Amanda Mackenzie Stuart
The argument made by Professor Richard Williams that “nothing of any significance has been built in Scotland’s capital since the mid-19th century” (your report, 11 March) is matched only by some of the wonderful buildings that were demolished to create the “gloomy, down-at-heel character of its shopping streets”.
Who could forget the beautiful, Venetian-style Life Association of Scotland building on Princes Street which was demolished in the 1960s, for instance?
Consider the building which replaced it and which now stands, unloved and anonymous, characterising Princes Street’s descent into oblivion.
The Scottish Parliament is another outrage which should never have been permitted in a historically sensitive area like the Old Town. Both the inhabitants of the city and the hundreds of thousands of tourists are, frankly, bewildered at how so many eyesores have been given planning permission.
I was flabbergasted to find that a new, two-building development created by the City of Edinburgh Council “that will define quality in Edinburgh’s financial district”, as it puts it, are called, respectively, Atria One and Atria Two.
Can the City of Edinburgh Council not afford to check with the University of Edinburgh’s Classics Department as to what the name used should be? “Atria” is a plural. Each of the two buildings may be an “atrium”, but it is certainly not an “atria”.
This simply makes a laughing stock of the city, if it cannot even give a new development the correct name.
Andrew HN Gray