Tuesday, 18 November 2008

UNESCO Slams City on Caltongate

By Brian Ferguson The Scotsman Today Full Article Here

from the article -
"UNESCO yesterday criticised Edinburgh council's handling of the Caltongate development and said the demolition of two listed buildings could have been avoided, The Scotsman can reveal.
Its European heritage chief, Dr Mechtild Rössler, condemned the council for allowing the London developer Mountgrange to draw up the initial blueprint for the huge Old Town site, by Waverley Station."

"Jim Lowrie, Edinburgh city council's planning leader, admitted the local authority could be left in a "tricky position" if the council's handling of Mountgrange was strongly criticised and asked for a response."

"However, Mountgrange has launched an attack on Unesco, the world heritage body, branding it an "irrelevance" and saying it is not interested in its views on the £300 million development."

The firm said it has no intention of postponing the start of work until after next summer's World Heritage summit, in Seville, discusses Edinburgh.
A spokesman Mark Cummings of Never Beaten PR said a "dangerous precedent" would be set if a major developer had to wait until Unesco had delivered its judgment, and insisted that Mountgrange had no intention of changing its scheme, even if key criticisms were made by Unesco."

Should Unesco be more in touch with modern urban planning reality? (odd question??)
RON HEWITT Chief executive, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce (remember Manish Chande, Caltongate Developer, is the chambers property portfolio Head!)
THE recent visit of the Unesco delegation was a welcome opportunity for the directors of the World Heritage Committee to assure themselves regarding the situation

on the ground. That Dr (Mechtild] Rössler, in summing up, saw no reason to report Edinburgh's World Heritage status being at risk is welcomed by the business community. The existing environment is a key reason why developers want to invest in our city. And if we want them to do so we must have attitudes that make investors welcome.We don't agree the city is in a polarised debate about the issue.

Whenever we meet with heritage groups we are able to have open conversations about a joint interest – preserving and developing one of the finest cities in Europe. Has this underlying commonality ruled the roost of the planning process? No! Should it? Yes! Do we need a better planning process to make applications run more smoothly? Yes! And it has arrived. It is called the Planning Act Scotland 2006 and it stipulates that community consultation should precede the hearing of applications in the council's planning committee.
It is interesting that Dr Rössler seemed unaware of these provisions. We explained the delays in bringing in regulations to implement the act are occasioned by a lengthy period of consultation – just what has been asked for all along. Dr Rössler told us Unesco has no interest in (or resources to deliver) vetting of planning applications in Edinburgh. Historic Scotland (legally) performs the function of overseeing our historic environment. We will continue to work with that organisation and other heritage bodies.
SALLY RICHARDSON spokeswoman, Save Our Old Town Campaign

WORLD Heritage status is awarded on consideration by the World Heritage Committee (a committee of member nations of Unesco) on the recommendation of the International Commission on Monuments and Sites. Nominations are put forward by national governments (in this case the UK government), often at the suggestion of a national institution (in this case, the City of Edinburgh Council). The World Heritage Centre is an admin body for the UN World Heritage Convention, to which the UK is a signatory.

Unesco was formed in a spirit of encouraging international understanding and peace, through co-operation in the realm of education, science and culture. World Heritage Sites are an important part of this, encouraging nations to understand the values that they share with others across the globe: what Edinburgh and, say, Peru's Machu Picchu have in common may not be obvious immediately, but then you begin to understand how another culture produced – or came to value – a site, and realise that how they value that place is not very different from us.

To say World Heritage Status is irrelevant to Edinburgh is to say that Edinburgh has no relevance to the rest of humanity and, if removed, that its outstanding universal value has been significantly reduced. At present, the site remains of huge international significance and interest – key to this is its juxtaposition of the organic medieval Old Town and the carefully planned and designed 18th and 19th century New Town. Those calling on World Heritage Status to be dropped, or just ignored, need to open their minds, and perhaps also their hearts, to everything that makes Edinburgh special."