The formal recognition of Edinburgh as one of the world’s most beautiful cities is under threat amid a battle for the soul of its most historic quarter. The city was inscribed as a Unesco world heritage site in 1995 for the beauty of its medieval old town and 18th-century new town but, following complaints from the public and architectural experts over a number of new buildings, inspectors from Icomos, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which advises Unesco, have toured several of the most contentious sites.
David Black, a conservationist and architectural critic, detects a sinister hand in the planned developments and others that have occurred with seemingly indecent haste around Edinburgh.
“The cataclysmic event as far as I was concerned was the wrecking of St Andrew Square last year and two wonderful, B-listed buildings within it, to build a TK Maxx and offices for Standard Life, all of which was dusted under the carpet,” he said. “Edinburgh is in crisis financially as a result of the tram catastrophe and the losses arising from a property repairs scandal. They’re trying to deal with this with a number of panic measures, like extending parking controls to late night and through Sundays to raise more revenue and doing all sorts of events deals in public spaces like Princes Street, St Andrew Square, and the Meadows. They’re also pimping the city to global investors like TIAA-CREF of North Carolina.” He went on to say, “If you are an international developer there has never been a better time to open up in Edinburgh and to get past planning protections for its built heritage.”